Arden, John 1930-
ARDEN, John 1930-
PERSONAL: Born October 26, 1930, in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England; son of Charles Alwyn (a manager of a glass works) and Annie Elizabeth (a school teacher; maiden name, Layland) Arden; married Margaretta Ruth D'Arcy (a playwright), 1957; children: Francis Gwalchmei (deceased), Finn, Adam, Jacob, Neuss. Education: King's College, Cambridge, B.A., 1953; Edinburgh College of Art, diploma, 1955. Hobbies and other interests: Antiquarianism, mythology.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Casarotto Ramsay & Associates, National House, 4th Fl., 60-66 Wardour St., London W1V 3HP, England.
CAREER: Architectural assistant in London, England, 1955-57; playwright, 1957—. Fellow in playwriting, University of Bristol, Bristol, England, 1959-60; visiting lecturer in politics and drama, New York University, 1967; Regents' lecturer, University of California, Davis, 1973; writer in residence and playwright in residence, University of New England, Australia, 1975. Cofounder of Corrandulla Arts and Entertainment Club, Corrandulla, Ireland, 1971, and Galway Theatre Workshop, 1975. Military service: British Army, Intelligence Corps, 1949-50.
AWARDS, HONORS: British Broadcasting Corp. Northern Region prize for The Life of Man; Encyclopaedia Britannica prize, 1959, and Vernon Rice award, 1966, both for Serjeant Musgrave's Dance: An Unhistorical Parable; Bristol University fellowship in playwriting, 1959-60; Evening Standard (London) "most promising playwright" award, 1960; Trieste Festival prize, 1961, for Soldier, Soldier; Arts Council Award, 1973; recipient, with Margaretta D'Arcy, award from Arts Council, 1974, for The Ballygombeen Bequest and The Island of the Mighty: A Play on a Traditional British Theme in Three Parts;The Old Man Sleeps Alone included in Best Radio Plays of 1982; Silence among the Weapons: Some Events at the Time of the Failure of a Republic short-listed for Booker McConnell prize for fiction, 1982; PEN Macmillan Silver Pen award, 1992, for Cogs Tyrranic; V. S. Pritchett Award, 1999.
All Fall Down, produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1955.
The Waters of Babylon (also see below), first produced in London at Royal Court Theatre, October 20, 1957; produced in New York City, 1958, and in Washington, DC, at Washington Theatre Club, 1967.
When Is a Door Not a Door? (also see below), first produced in London at Central School of Speech and Drama, 1958.
Live Like Pigs (also see below), first produced in London at Royal Court Theatre, September 30, 1958; produced Off-Broadway at Actor's Playhouse, June 7, 1965.
Serjeant Musgrave's Dance: An Unhistorical Parable (also see below; first produced in London at Royal Court Theatre, October 22, 1959; produced Off-Broadway at Theatre de Lys, March 8, 1966; revised version with John McGrath produced on tour as Serjeant Musgrave Dances On, 1972), Methuen (London, England), 1960, Grove (New York, NY), 1962, with notes and commentary by R. W. Ewart, Longman, 1982, with notes and commentary by Glenda Leeming, Methuen (London, England), 1982, revised 1966 script, Studio Duplicating Service, 1986.
The Workhouse Donkey: A Vulgar Melodrama (also see below; first produced in Sussex, England, at Chichester Festival Theatre, July 8, 1963), Methuen (London, England), 1964, Grove (New York, NY), 1967.
Ironhand (adaptation of Goethe's Goetz von Berlichingen; first produced in Bristol, England, at Bristol Old Vic Theatre, November 12, 1963), Methuen (London, England), 1965, Grove (New York, NY), 1967.
Armstrong's Last Goodnight: An Exercise in Diplomacy (also see below; first produced in Glasgow, Scotland, at Glasgow Citizens' Theatre, May 5, 1964; produced in Boston, 1966), Methuen (London, England), 1965, Grove (New York, NY), 1976.
Fidelio (adaptation of libretto by Joseph Sonnleithner and Friedrich Treitschke of opera by Beethoven), first produced in London, 1965.
Left-Handed Liberty: A Play about Magna Carta (commissioned by the City of London to celebrate the 750th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta; first produced in London at Mermaid Theatre, June 14, 1965), Methuen (London, England), 1965, Grove (NewYork, NY), 1966.
The Soldier's Tale (adaptation of libretto by Charles Ramuz of opera by Igor Stravinsky), first produced in Bath, England, 1968.
The True History of Squire Jonathan and His Unfortunate Treasure (also see below), first produced in London at Ambiance Lunch Hour Theatre, June 17, 1968.
The Hero Rises Up: A Romantic Melodrama, Methuen (London, England), 1969.
Two Autobiographical Plays, Methuen (London, England), 1971.
PLAYS; WITH MARGARETTA D'ARCY
The Happy Haven (two-act; also see below), first produced in Bristol at Bristol University, 1960; produced in London at Royal Court Theatre, September 14, 1960; produced in New York City, 1967.
The Business of Good Government: A Christmas Play (one-act; first produced as A Christmas Play, in Somerset, England, at Brent Knoll Church of St. Michael, December, 1960; produced in New York City, 1970), Methuen (London, England), 1963, reprinted, 1983, Grove (NewYork, NY), 1967.
Ars Longa, Vita Brevis (one-act; first produced on the West End at Aldwych Theatre by the Royal Shakespeare Co., 1964), Cassell (London, England), 1965.
Friday's Hiding (one-act; also see below), first produced in London, 1965; produced in Edinburgh at the Lyceum Theatre, 1966.
The Royal Pardon; or, The Soldier Who Became an Actor (first produced in Devon, England, at Beaford Arts Centre, September 1, 1966; produced in London at Arts Theatre, 1967), Methuen (London, England), 1967.
(And with Cartoon Archetypical Slogan Theatre) Harold Muggins Is a Martyr, first produced in London at Unity Theatre Club, June, 1968.
The Hero Rises Up: A Romantic Melodrama (two-act; first produced in London at Round House Theatre, November 6, 1968), Methuen (London, England), 1969.
(And with Muswell Hill Street Theatre) Granny Welfare and the Wolf, first produced in London at Ducketts Common, Turnpike Lane, March, 1971.
(And with Muswell Hill Street Theatre) My Old Man's a Tory (one-act), first produced in London at Wood Green, March, 1971.
(And with Socialist Labour League) Two Hundred Years of Labour History (two-act), first produced in London at Alexandra Palace, April, 1971.
(And with Writers against Repression) Rudi Dutschke Must Stay, first produced in London at British Museum, spring, 1971.
The Ballygombeen Bequest (first produced in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at St. Mary and St. Joseph's College Drama Society, May, 1972; produced in London at Bush Theatre, September 11, 1972), Scripts, 1972.
The Island of the Mighty: A Play on a Traditional British Theme in Three Parts (first produced on the West End at Aldwych Theatre, December 5, 1972), with illustrations by authors, Eyre Methuen (Oxford, England), 1974.
(And with Corrandulla Arts Entertainment Club) The Devil and the Parish Pump (one-act), first produced in county Galway, Ireland, at Gort Roe, Corrandulla Arts Centre, April, 1974.
The Non-Stop Connolly Show: A Dramatic Cycle of Continuous Struggle in Six Parts (first produced in Dublin at Liberty Hall, March 29, 1975, produced in London at Ambiance Lunch Hour Theatre, May 17, 1976), Pluto, Parts 1 and 2: Boyhood 1868-1889 [and] Apprenticeship, 1889-1896, 1977, Part 3: Professional, 1896-1903, Part 4: The New World, 1903-1910, Part 5: The Great Lockout, 1910-1914, and Part 6: World War and the Rising, 1914-1916, 1978.
(And with Galway Theatre Workshop) The Crown Strike Play (one-act), first produced in Galway at Eyre Square, December, 1975.
(And with Galway Theatre Workshop) Sean O'Scrudu, first produced in Galway at Coachman Hotel, February, 1976.
(And with Galway Theatre Workshop) The Mongrel Fox (one-act), first produced in Galway at Regional Technical College, October, 1976.
(And with Galway Theatre Workshop) No Room at the Inn (one-act), first produced in Galway at Coachman Hotel, December, 1976.
(And with Galway Theatre Workshop) Silence, first produced in Galway at Eyre Square, April, 1977.
(And with Galway Theatre Workshop) Mary's Name (one-act), first produced in Galway at University College, May, 1977.
(And with Galway Theatre Workshop) Blow-In Chorus for Liam Cosgrave, first produced in Galway at Eyre Square, June, 1977.
Vandaleur's Folly: An Anglo-Irish Melodrama; The Hazard of Experiment in an Irish Co-operative, Ralahine, 1831 (two-act; first produced at Lancaster University, 1978) Methuen (Oxford, England), 1981.
The Little Gray Home in the West: An Anglo-Irish Melodrama, Pluto, 1982.
RADIO / TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS
The Life of Man (radio play), BBC Radio, 1956.
Soldier, Soldier: A Comic Song for Television (also see below), BBC, 1960.
Wet Fish: A Professional Reminiscence for Television (also see below), BBC, 1961.
The Bagman; or, The Impromptu of Muswell Hill (radio play; also see below), BBC-Radio, 1970.
(With Margaretta D'Arcy) Keep These People Moving (radio play; for children), British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC-Radio), 1972.
(With Margaretta D'Arcy) Portrait of a Rebel (television documentary about Sean O'Casey), Radio-Telefis Eireann (Dublin), 1973.
To Put It Frankly (radio play), BBC-Radio, 1979.
Pearl: A Play about a Play within a Play (radio play), Eyre Methuen (Oxford, England), 1979.
The Adventures of the Ingenious Gentlemen (two-part adaptation of Cervantes' Don Quixote), BBC-Radio, 1980.
Garland for a Hoar Head (radio play), BBC-Radio, 1982.
The Old Man Sleeps Alone (radio play), BBC-Radio, 1982.
(With Margaretta D'Arcy) The Manchester Enthusiasts (radio play broadcast in three parts), BBC-Radio, 1984, broadcast on RTE Radio, Dublin, as The Ralahine Experiment, 1985.
(With Margaretta D'Arcy) Whose Is the Kingdom? (radio play broadcast in nine parts by BBC-Radio, 1988), Methuen (London, England), 1988.
(With Margaretta D'Arcy) A Suburban Suicide (radio play), BBC-Radio, 1994.
Little Novels of Wilkie Collins (radio play), 1998.
Woe Alas, the Fatal Cash-Box! (radio plays), Radio 4, 1999.
Wild Ride to Dublin (radio play), BBC-Radio 4, 2003.
Poor Tom Thy Horn is Dry (radio play), BBC-Radio 3, 2003.
Three Plays (contains The Waters of Babylon, Live Like Pigs, and The Happy Haven), introduction by John Russell Taylor, Penguin (New York, NY), 1964, reprinted, 1984, Penguin (Baltimore, MD), 1965.
Soldier, Soldier, and Other Plays (contains Soldier, Soldier: A Comic Song for Television, Wet Fish: A Professional Reminiscence for Television, When Is a Door Not a Door? and Friday's Hiding), Methuen (London, England), 1967.
Two Autobiographical Plays (contains The True History of Squire Jonathan and His Unfortunate Treasure and The Bagman; or, The Impromptu of Muswell Hill), Methuen (London, England), 1971.
Plays (includes Serjeant Musgrave's Dance: An Unhistorical Parable, The Workhouse Donkey: A Vulgar Melodrama, and Armstrong's Last Goodnight: An Exercise in Diplomacy), Methuen (London, England), 1977, Grove (New York, NY), 1978.
Arden/D'Arcy, Plays One, Methuen (London, England), 1991.
Arden, Plays One and Two, Methuen (London, England), 1994, reprinted, 2002.
(With Margaretta D'Arcy) To Present the Pretence: Essays on the Theatre and Its Public, Eyre Methuen (Oxford, England), 1977, Holmes & Meier, 1979.
Vox Pop: The Last Days of the Roman Republic (novel), Harcourt (New York, NY), 1982, published as Silence among the Weapons: Some Events at the Time of the Failure of a Republic, Methuen (London, England), 1982.
Books of Bale: A Fiction of History (novel), Methuen (London, England), 1988.
(With Margaretta D'Arcy) Awkward Corners: Essays, Papers, Fragments (essays), Methuen (London, England), 1988.
Cogs Tyrannic (four stories), Methuen (London, England), 1991.
Jack Juggler and the Emperor's Whore: Seven Tall Tales Linked Together for an Indecorous Toy Theatre (novel), Methuen (London, England), 1995.
Stealing Steps (short stories), Methuen (London, England), 2003.
Contributor to anthologies, including New English Dramatists, Penguin, Volume 3, 1961, Volume 4, 1962, and Scripts 9, 1972.
SIDELIGHTS: British playwright John Arden may not be as well known outside of his native land as are some of his contemporaries of the radical writers school that emerged during the 1950s and 1960s. But like John Osborne, author of Look Back in Anger, and David Edgar, whose many agitprop dramas rocked the stage, Arden takes a hard look at English life, examining the conflicts behind the traditions. As Stanley Lourdeaux described it in a Dictionary of Literary Biography article, when the fledgling playwright Arden began his professional career in 1957, "critics hastily placed him with other 'angry young men' of the period. Recent critics have labeled Arden the British [Bertolt] Brecht because of his generally Marxist politics in his recent social drama. But neither his present politics nor the 'angry' nonconformity of his protagonists tells the story of why he gradually rejected the appearance of 1950s social realism for that of improvisation." Writing in Contemporary Dramatists, Elaine Turner found that "Arden's plays break through the confinements of realism by using open staging; broad, poetic language; characters bordering on caricature; complex visual imagery; active social settings; and an appropriation of traditional 'popular' forms, like music-hall and medieval theatre, to dramatise the inter-active effects of concepts, ideas, and social organisation on social, personal, and political life."
Arden's early theatrical efforts "scrutinized the basic social tension between aggressive survivors and the institutions meant to pacify them," continued Lourdeaux, who pointed to The Waters of Babylon, a 1957 production, as an illustration. It is the story of Sigismanfred Krankiewicz—Krank for short—a Pole who emigrates to London as an architectural assistant (the playwright's original career). When Krank runs up against local authorities for harboring too many boarders, many of them prostitutes, at his private boardinghouse, the immigrant rebels by becoming involved in a corrupt local lottery. Krank's schemes are contrasted against his friend Paul's, who is an amateur anarchist given to building bombs in the name of Polish patriotism. But Polish patriotism "makes little sense to Krank in a world gone mad, as he explains when Paul almost shoots him after learning that he was a soldier in the German army at Buchenwald," noted Lourdeaux. Eventually, Paul does shoot Krank and kill him, though accidentally, and "the random results of the entire scene undermines Krank's clever individualism as well as social justice," as Lourdeaux explained.
In his book Anger and After: A Guide to the New British Drama, John Russell Taylor remarked that "behind Arden's work there seems to be brooding one basic principle: not exactly the obvious one that today there are no causes—that would be altogether too facile, and in any case just not true—but that there are too many." In the opinion of Simon Trussler, in his published study John Arden, The Waters of Babylon is "extravagantly plotted, generously peopled—a scenically shuttling kaleidoscope of down-at-heel London life in the early 1950s. Coincidence functions here not with the shyly intruding excuses of the well-made play but as a fine art in itself, a satisfaction of improbable expectations. And the characters, a racial mixture of Poles, English, Irish, and West Indians, embody in this comedy of contemporary humours many of the mythic archetypes of urban life, caught from an unexpected angle."
Another Arden work to satirically examine the conflict between the classes is Live Like Pigs. Like The Waters of Babylon, this play "contains earthy and zestful language and depends greatly on performance," according to Lourdeaux. "Arden presents the chaos of the gypsylike Sawney family who are forced out of their broken run-down tramcar and made to live in the local housing project. The Sawneys quickly manage to insult their new neighbors, the Jacksons, who eventually incite a vigilante group to run the unappreciative vulgar family out of the project."
Live Like Pigs looks "superficially naturalistic, but one has only to consider the sturdy-beggarly tongue in which the Sawneys speak to realize that Arden is here employing a device which was to become more familiar in his historical plays for distinguishing a way of life through its language," said Trussler. "The ballads which introduce the scenes, and the occasional snatches of song within them, underline the danger of approaching the play naturalistically." The purpose of song in this work, the critic continued, "is in marked contrast to the deliberately interruptive purpose it usually serves in Brecht's: balladry is best regarded as another of Arden's invented languages, the problems it poses dramatic rather than musical."
Called by the Irish dramatist Sean O'Casey "far and away the finest play of the present day," Serjeant Musgrave's Dance: An Unhistorical Parable, a 1958 Arden drama, centers on a fanatical sergeant of the nineteenth-century British army who exacts a bizarre revenge for the life of a soldier killed by a sniper. He in fact wants no fewer than five men to die to avenge the young private; then he calls for more murders to mark another soldier's death, although that one was accidental. Serjeant Musgrave's Dance, in M. W. Steinberg's view, "is largely an exploration of the place of violence in society and our varying responses to it." Dalhousie Review writer M. W. Steinberg added that "the moral-political question is given sharpest focus and most acute and challenging dramatic expression through Serjeant Musgrave, a zealot so convinced of the absolute rightness of his cause that he is willing to adopt horrifying means to achieve his goal, and so unswerving and single-minded in his devotion to his avowed purpose that he refuses to be distracted by any consideration not immediately relevant."
"[It] would make for easier acceptance of Serjeant Musgrave's Dance if the fanatical sergeant were to be either wholly condemned or wholly approved of," stated G. W. Brandt, the author of Contemporary Theatre. "But is it not disturbing to see a morally sensitive man trying to start a public massacre? It is. Does his fanaticism invalidate his moral protest as such? It does not. The contradiction between laudable indignation and reprehensible conclusions drawn from it may either alienate the spectators out of all sympathy with the play (as happened to some critics), or else it may jolt them into stirring moral speculation (as was the experience of some other critics)."
That Serjeant Musgrave's Dance evoked a divided, if emotional, reaction in critics proved a point of discussion to Malcolm Page: "Clearly there are grounds for uncertainty about the import of the play; difficulties in comprehension arose mainly because neither method nor subject was what the critics expected," he wrote in Drama Survey. The play "suggests that pacifists are not sure enough about what they are trying to do, and have not understood the complexities of the world," Page said. And "there are several other ideas in the play, perhaps too many. Musgrave and his followers are obsessed with guilt at the evil in which they joined, raising the issue of how to expiate it. . . . Musgrave touches, too, on the question of what principle is: where and how can one begin to apply principles in an imperfect world; does the quest of absolute principle lead to madness?"
In another Drama Survey article, John Mills reacted both to Serjeant Musgrave's Dance and to Page's assessment of it. To Page's opinion that the work asks "why pacifist ideas have not had more influence," Mills responded that "though I agree with much of [Page's] commentary, I think that the play is a little more hopeful than he indicates. For one thing, it seems to me that Musgrave is less about pacifism than it is about anarchism, a doctrine [with] which the play tentatively (as Arden himself might put it) agrees."
The playwright does not lack for personal anger, "but he is the dramatist par excellence who translates that anger into situations of a strictly impersonal nature," to quote Arnold P. Hinchcliffe from his book British Theatre 1950-1970. "Arden's characters are primarily used as representatives, and his plots bring about conflicts between social groups. His characters, of course, exist as very colourful individuals, but their personality is shaped at all times to suggest what they stand for . . . and add to the picture of the community as a whole. Thus, isolated town or national politics reflected in local government is observed with an accurate social eye and a strong historical sense which combine to 'translate the concrete life of today into terms of poetry that shall at the one time illustrate that life and set it within the historical and legendary tradition of our culture,'" he said, quoting Arden.
To Lourdeaux, Arden "began his career in theater as a trained architect who was guided by the basic foundation of social drama only to turn to more and more explicitly political material. Though at first interested in epic figures like Hitler and King Arthur, Arden tempered his taste to the smaller stature of men like Sigismanfred Krankiewicz and Serjeant Musgrave, whose vivid speech and improvised actions supplanted the significance of seemingly realistic plots. With other fierce survivors like the Sawneys in Live Like Pigs, [the playwright] seemed to have settled on contemporary social realism."
Arden's career presented another aspect—collaborating on plays with his wife, Irish actress and playwright Margaretta D'Arcy. The professional partnership was a natural move, as Arden explained in a Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series article. "She was closely involved with the most progressive aspects of the theatre of that time, aspects of which I knew nothing, with my limited Shakespearean provincial orientation and my academic (and indeed pompous) attitude towards the stage. She gave me a copy of Brecht—a writer I had only heard of: she introduced me to the works of Beckett, Strindberg, Toller, Behan," he wrote. "Her name now appears, sometimes first, sometimes second, together with mine, upon a great deal of published work which nonetheless the male critics, managements, publishers, and broadcasters, will insist upon referring to as 'Arden's.' Or, worse, 'the Ardens.'" Her name also appears on work of her own, but this did not appear until after the collaborative pieces.
The Non-Stop Connolly Show: A Dramatic Cycle of Continuous Struggle in Six Parts is a marathon collaboration between Arden and D'Arcy; a six-part cycle lasting nearly twenty-four hours, with a huge cast of historical characters, the production traces the life of Irish socialist leader James Connolly from boyhood through the Easter Uprising in 1916, an important and inspiring event in the history of Irish nationalism. Writing of the two traditions in Ireland, "vicious, merciless violence" and pacifism, Desmond Hogan pointed out in New Statesmen that Connolly exemplified neither, but "ultimately opted for a bloody revolution on a minor scale not so much to break from Britain but to let out his own protest against Britain's centuries of manhandling Ireland." Although Lourdeaux considers the play "too long and the characters too numerous for viewers to focus exclusively on any one character or action in this complex political tapestry," Hogan suggested that "one feels one is in the presence of great drama and that the drama was made from a cold eye, an eye which like Yeats's, penetrated lies, phobias, images which dressed other images, and came up with—even if only for moments at a stretch—a mind-boggling authenticity."
Concluding an essay on Arden in Modern Drama, Joan Tindale Blindheim declared the playwright "a conscious and imaginative explorer of visual effects and stage resources. His knowledge of stage history and his trained eye add dimensions to his work that are often absent from that of more 'literary' writers. There are aspects that must not be ignored when [Arden's] contribution to the drama is considered, and it is through them that he is likely to make a lasting contribution to the theatre too, in helping to break down theatre conventions and in striving towards a richer and more active relationship between actors and audience."
In 1995, Arden produced a sprawling 582-page novel, Jack Juggler and the Emperor's Whore: Seven Tall Tales Linked Together for an Indecorous Toy Theatre. The novel follows the life of Jack "Juggler" Pogmoor, a slightly amoral and unscrupulous theater director who is the anti-hero of these tales. Pogmoor's successes in the theater are offset by accusations of sexual delinquency. David Caute, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, claimed that "Arden . . . strongly implies that a theatre director cannot be falsely charged with anything." The book's great mystery centers on brother and sister pair Fidelio and Leonora Carver, writer and stage designer for the theater, who are chillingly murdered. Fidelio by an Irish paramilitary leader, Lenora by a British military policeman.
Arden's book received mixed critical reviews. Caute remarked that the novel "is a grim tale in which the make-believe radicalism of the fringe theatre encounters the distinctly untheatrical blood-letting of an Irish nationalism bitterly at war with the British state." However, Caute satirically faulted Arden for his portrayal of some of the female characters: "His portrait of the hysterical radical Carmilla Costello alone is worth a boycott." Observer reviewer Michael Coveney found the novel "ramshackle and unruly to the point of indecent excess," yet declared that it "never flags or fails to engage."
Writing in the International Dictionary of Theatre, Laurel Brake summarized Arden's career: "A consciousness of society and politics as well as the individual informs John Arden's work as a playwright, critic, and actor. In almost any context one attempts to place him he appears, to his credit, abrasive and anomalous. Loosely implicated in the 'angry young men' group of the 1950s, he countered the commitment of their work with a resolute disengagement; as the universities have expanded to include modern drama in the syllabus of the academy, he observes the tyranny of the 'literary' text of the play and the mistaken valuation of the 'objective'; and as state subsidies have created a secure and, some might say, 'entrenched' British theatre, Arden criticizes a system where selection and production of plays are determined by a director-administrator whose policies are administrative rather than artistic."
In 1997, Arden told CA that "since 1978 all my dramatic writing has been for radio. The theatre, whether in Britain or Ireland, has seemed neither able nor willing to provide decent working conditions for playwrights to develop new work in a way which I could cope with. In Britain, this has been largely due to economic reasons: scarcity of resources has led to smaller casts, a terror of taking risks (particularly in the area of political comment), and a significant growth of bureaucratic rather than artistic control of the business. Public funding for the arts has become subject to the interference of reactionary political policies, while private investment gives priority to creative work suitable for Corporate Image-enhancement. Between the two, the dramatist with something to say is intolerably squeezed. Radio, alas, is now succumbing to these pressures.
"In Ireland there are similar restrictions, with a slightly different colour: a recently developed, officially stimulated (but tacit) cultural consensus demands that artists and writers should be part of what might be called 'the authentic national and/or community voice,' as interpreted and reinterpreted in the shifting light of current political developments. This is a category into which it appears I fail to fit, even when I collaborate with the authentically Irish Margaretta D'Arcy, and even though we have lived and worked in the country for over thirty years.
"I have therefore spent most of my time over the last decade-and-a-half writing stories of various sizes, some of them quite short (as in Cogs Tyrannic), others extremely long (Books of Bale and Jack Juggler); up to now I have been lucky enough to have had them accepted for publication. Nearly all of them have dealt in some way with the theatre and its social/political background in various periods of history—ancient Rome in Silence among the Weapons (Vox Pop for U.S. readers); 16th-century England and Ireland in Books of Bale; early 19th-century England in Cogs Tyrannic; my own lifetime in another of the Cogs Tyrannic tales and in most of Jack Juggler. Jack Juggler also includes a theatrical episode of the mid-18th century. I suppose all these stories are concerned with the ability—or inability—of drama and its practitioners to cope with the world beyond the stage, with political lies and suppressions, with overt wars and covert treacheries, with the vagaries of patronage, with the harsh demands of sexual desire and the exigencies of sexual custom at any given time.
"I feel that I have more or less worked these themes out of my system: I really don't know where I'm going to go from here."
Where Arden returned was to the world of radio, a fertile arena with the British Broadcasting Corporation commissioning several hundred plays each year. During the 1990s, he created such plays as Little Novels of Wilkie Collins, and Woe Alas, the Fatal Cash-Box! The later deals with a frequently used setting, the British public school (equivalent to a private school in the United States), and focuses on the public school experiences of Julius Applewick. A heart-attack victim, Applewick, languishing in a hospital, experiences a series of flashbacks, including being falsely accused of embezzlement. London Guardian reviewer Anne Karpf recalled Arden's award-winning 1978 drama Pearl and compared Woe Alas favorably with it: "Here again he writes with brio and comic indignation, treating the central incidents as melodrama." She concluded that while there are many works based on public school experiences, Arden's is "rich in sap."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Anderson, Michael, Anger and Detachment: A Study of Arden, Osborne and Pinter, Pitman (London, England), 1976.
Armstrong, William A., general editor, Experimental Drama, G. Bell & Sons (London, England), 1963.
Brandt, G. W., Contemporary Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon Studies 4, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1962.
Brown, John Russell, Theatre Language: A Study of Arden, Osborne, Pinter, and Wesker, Allen Lane (London, England), 1972.
Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Volume 4, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.
Contemporary Dramatists, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1993.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 6, 1976, Volume 13, 1980, Volume 15, 1980.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 13: British Dramatists since World War II, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1982.
Gilman, Richard, Common and Uncommon Masks: Writings on Theatre, 1961-1970, Random House (New York, NY), 1971.
Gray, Frances, John Arden, Grove Press (New York, NY), 1982.
Hayman, Ronald, John Arden, Heinemann Educational Books (London, England), 1968.
Hinchcliffe, Arnold P., British Theatre 1950-1970, Rowman & Littlefield (London, England), 1974.
Hunt, Albert, Arden: A Study of His Plays, Eyre Methuen (Oxford, England), 1974.
International Dictionary of Theatre, Volume 2: Playwrights, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Kennedy, Andrew K., Six Dramatists in Search of a Language: Studies in Dramatic Language, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1975.
Leeming, Glenda, John Arden, edited by Ian Scott-Kilvert, Longman (Harlow, England), 1974.
Lowenfels, Walter, editor, The Playwrights Speak, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1967.
Lumley, Frederick, New Trends in 20th Century Drama: A Survey since Ibsen and Shaw, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1967.
Marowitz, Charles The Encore Reader: A Chronicle of New Drama, Methuen & Co. (London, England), 1965.
Page, Malcolm, John Arden, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1984.
Page, Malcolm, editor, Arden on File, Methuen (New York, NY), 1985.
Roy, Emil, British Drama since Shaw, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 1972.
Schvey, Henry I., From Paradox to Propaganda: The Plays of John Arden, Hueber (Munich, Germany), 1981.
Taylor, John Russell, Anger and After: A Guide to the New British Drama, Methuen (London, England), 1962.
Thomson, Peter, Plays in Production, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1997, pp. 159-162.
Trussler, Simon, John Arden, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1973.
Tschudin, Marcus, A Writer's Theatre: George Devine and the English Stage Company at the Royal Court, 1956-1965, Lang (London, England), 1972.
Wellworth, George, The Theatre of Protest and Paradox, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1964.
Wike, Jonathan, John Arden and Margaretta D'Arcy: A Casebook, Garland (New York, NY), 1995.
Williams, Raymond, Drama from Ibsen to Brecht, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1969.
Winkler, Elizabeth Hale, "Modern Melodrama: The Living Heritage in the Theatre of John Arden and Margaretta D'Arcy," in Melodrama, edited by James Redmond, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1992, pp. 255-267.
Worth, Katherine, editor, Revolutions in Modern English Drama, Bell (London, England), 1972, pp. 126-135.
Contemporary Literature, summer, 1991, Georg Gaston, "An Interview with John Arden," pp. 147-170.
Cross Currents, summer, 1991, Diana Culbertson, "Sacred Victims: Catharsis in the Modern Theatre," pp. 179-194.
Dalhousie Review, fall, 1977, M. W. Steinberg, review of The Hero Rises Up, pp. 437-438.
Drama Survey, summer, 1967; winter, 1968.
Guardian (London, England), July 24, 1999, Anne Karpf, "One Small Theft for a Boy," review of Woe Alas, the Fatal Cash-Box!, p. 4.
Hibbert Journal, fall, 1966.
Modern Drama, December, 1968, Joan Tindale Blindheim, p. 316; March, 1978, Craig Clinton, review of The Hero Rise Up, pp. 55-56; June, 1985, Michael Cohen, "The Politics of the Earlier Arden," pp. 198-210; March, 1983, Helena Forsas Scott, "Life and Love and Sergeant Musgrave: An Approach to Arden's Play," pp. 1-11.
New Statesman, December 17, 1965, Ronald Bryden, review of Serjeant Musgrave's Dance, p. 979; April 11, 1980.
Observer (London), July 11, 1965, Penelope Gilliatt, review of Serjeant Musgrave's Dance, p. 21; September 24, 1995, p. 16.
Panjab University Research Bulletin (Arts), October, 1983, Ishwar Dutt, "The Rebel and the Tyrant: An Analysis of Violence in Serjeant Musgrave's Dance," pp. 143-155; April 17, 1986, P. C. David, "Poetry in the Drama of John Arden," pp. 41-50.
Review of English Literature, October, 1966, J. D. Hainsworth, pp. 47-48.
Theatre Research International, fall, 1980, Redmond O'Hanlon, "The Theatrical Values of John Arden," pp. 218-236; spring, 1990, Michael Cohen, "A Defense of D'Arcy and Arden's Non-Stop Connolly Show," pp. 78-88.
Times Literary Supplement, January 7, 1965; March 3, 1978; August 27, 1982; September 29, 1995, p. 24.
Tulane Drama Review, winter, 1966, Richard Gilman, pp. 55-56.