John Whiting Biography
(1917–63), A Penny for a Song, Saint's Day, Look Back in Anger, Marching Song
British playwright, born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, the son of an army captain, educated at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London; he worked as an actor in London and the regions before becoming a dramatist. His first play, A Penny for a Song (1951), is a slight comedy about English eccentrics awaiting a Napoleonic invasion; his next play, Saint's Day, was more substantial and proved more controversial when it was staged the same year. A nightmarish portrait of a strange, paranoid poet and his family, it may now be seen as a precursor, less social in its emphasis, of the break with drawing-room drama that was to occur with the arrival of Look Back in Anger in 1956. Whiting's later plays include the intellectually intricate Marching Song (1954), about a general accused of war crimes, and a forceful adaptation of Aldous Huxley's study of religious hysteria, The Devils (1961); but none matched the imaginative power of Saint's Day. He served as drama critic of the London Magazine until he was disabled by the cancer which eventually killed him.