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Lochhead, Liz

LOCHHEAD, Liz


Nationality: Scottish. Born: Motherwell, Lanarkshire, 26 December 1947. Education: Glasgow School of Art, 1965–70, diploma 1970. Career: Teacher of art at schools in Glasgow, Scotland, and Bristol, England; lecturer, University of Glasgow. Awards: Scotland prize, British Broadcasting Corporation, 1971; new writing award, Scottish Arts Council, 1972, for Memo for Spring; Scottish Arts Council fellowship, 1978. Address: 11 Kersland Street, Glasgow G12 8BW, Scotland.

Publications

Poetry

Memo for Spring. Edinburgh, University of Edinburgh Press, 1972.

The Grimm Sisters. London, Next Editions, 1981.

Dreaming Frankenstein and Collected Poems. Edinburgh, University of Edinburgh Press, 1984; as Dreaming Frankenstein and Other Poems, Edinburgh, Polygon, 1999.

True Confessions and New Clichés. Edinburgh, University of Edinburgh Press, 1985; revised edition, Edinburgh, Polygon, 1993.

Bagpipe Muzak. London, Penguin, 1991.

Plays

Blood and Ice (produced Edinburgh, 1982; revised version, produced London, 1984). Edinburgh, Salamander Press, 1982; New York, Methuen, 1983.

Tickly Mince (revue), with Tom Leonard and Alisdair Gray (produced Glasgow, 1982).

The Pie of Damocles (revue), with others (produced Glasgow, 1983).

A Bunch of Fives, with Tom Leonard and Sean Hardie (produced Glasgow, 1983).

Silver Service. Edinburgh, Salamander Press, 1984.

Dracula, adaptation of the novel by Bram Stoker (produced Edinburgh, 1985). With Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off, London, Penguin 1989.

Tartuffe, adaptation of the play by Moliére (produced Edinburgh, 1985). Edinburgh, Polygon, 1985.

Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off (produced Edinburgh and London, 1987). With Dracula, London, Penguin, 1989.

The Big Picture (produced Glasgow, 1988).

Patter Merchant (produced Edinburgh, 1989).

Jock Tamson's Bairns, with Gerry Mulgrew (produced Glasgow, 1990).

Quelques Fleurs (produced Edinburgh and London, 1991).

Perfect Days (produced Edinburgh, 1998). London, Nick Hern Books, 1998; revised edition, London, Nick Hern, 1999.

Screenplay: Now and Then, 1972.

Radio Play: Blood and Ice, 1990.

Television Play: Sweet Nothings in End of the Line series, 1984.

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Critical Studies: "Past Lives in Present Drama: Feminist Theatre and Intertextuality" by Beate Neumeier, in Frauen und Frauendarstellung in der englischen and amerikanischen, edited by Therese Fischer-Seidel, Tubingen, Germany, Narr, 1991; "Feminist Nationalism in Scotland: 'Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off'" by Ilona S. Koren-Deutsch, in Modern Drama (Downsview, Ontario), 35(3), September 1992; "'The Devil Is Beautiful': Dracula: Freudian Novel and Feminist Drama" by Jan McDonald, in Novel Images: Literature in Performance, edited by Peter Reynolds, London, Routledge, 1993; "Desire and Difference in Liz Lochhead's 'Dracula'" by Jennifer Harvie, in Essays in Theatre, 11(2), May 1993; in British Playwrights, 1956–1995: A Research and Production Sourcebook edited by William W. Demastes, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood, 1996; "The Mirror and the Vamp: Liz Lochhead" by Anne Varty, in A History of Scottish Women's Writing, edited by Douglas Gifford and Dorothy McMillan, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1997.

*  *  *

The Scottish writer Liz Lochhead's 1972 verse collection Memo for Spring made an immediate impact with its freshness and truth to experience. The appeal was direct, and yet the writing used more verbal devices than might appear at a glance or on a first hearing. An ability to talk about very ordinary things—her young sister trying on her shoes, a trip from Glasgow to Edinburgh, her grandmother knitting, the clang of steelworks, a child carrying a jug of milk, the end of a love affair—is in a few poems flattened out toward triviality or the prosaic, but for the most part the warmly observing eye and ear are convincingly on target. The experience has a Glasgow and Lanarkshire background, but one attractive poem, "Letter from New England"—where elements of ironical comment on small-town life are entertainingly presented through the persona of a surprised visitor—shows an encouraging ability to move into a wider world.

The author's subsequent books of poetry have confirmed her promise and extended her range. The Grimm Sisters takes up themes from ballads and fairy tales and retells the stories either from a new angle or with a modern perspective. Dreaming Frankenstein, a collection of her earlier volumes with a substantial and impressive addition of new poems, shows both a development of her storytelling gift and a deepening of her psychological probing of human relationships, especially as seen from a woman's point of view. The extension of Lochhead's work into the theater, with plays on the Frankenstein and Dracula stories and an interest in cabaret-type monologues, gives further evidence of a productive and confident talent. Her dramatic monologues, songs, and performance pieces were collected in 1985 in True Confessions and New Clichés, a sparkling and witty book to read, even though its contents are meant to be heard. Prose and verse and song and action come together in her extremely effective play Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off, which takes a fresh and moving look at Scottish history and the myths that run through it.

—Edwin Morgan

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