Cartwright, Jim 1958-

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Born June 27, 1958, in Farnworth, Lancashire, England; son of Jim and Edna (Main) Cartwright; married Angela Louise Jones; children: James Lewis, Georgina Lucy, Samuel Aaron and Charlotte Emily (twins). Education: Attended Central School of Speech and Drama.


Agent—Judy Daish Associates Ltd., 2 St. Charles Place, London W10 6EG, England.


Playwright. Cofounder of Acme Acting Company, 1980s; actor in plays, including Prize Night, 1999.


Samuel Beckett Award, George Devine Award, Plays and Players Award, and Golden Nymph Award, all for Road; Manchester Evening News Theatre Award for best new play, for To; London Evening Standard Drama Award for best comedy, 1992, and Laurence Olivier Award for best comedy, 1993, both for The Rise and Fall of Little Voice; Manchester Evening News Theatre Award for best fringe production, 1998, for I Licked a Slag's Deodorant.



Road (produced in London, England, at Royal Court Theatre, 1986; also see below), Methuen (London, England), 1986, revised edition, 1990.

Bed (produced in London, England, at National Theatre, 1989), Methuen (London, England), 1991, published with To, 1994.

To (produced in Bolton, Lancashire, England, 1989; also see below), Methuen (London, England), 1991, published with Bed, 1994.

Baths, produced in Bolton, Lancashire, England, 1990.

Eight Miles High, produced in Bolton, Lancashire, England, 1991.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (produced in London, England, at Royal National Theatre, 1992), Methuen (London, England), 1992, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1995.

Stone Free, produced in Bristol, England, 1994.

I Licked a Slag's Deodorant (produced in London, England, 1996), Methuen (London, England), 1996.

Kiss the Sky, produced in London, England, 1996.

Prize Night, produced in Manchester, England, 1999.

Hard Fruit (produced in London, England, at Royal Court Theatre, 2000), Methuen (London, England), 2000.

Baths was written as a radio play, 1987.


(Adaptor with Mark Herman) Little Voice (based on play The Rise and Fall of Little Voice), Miramax, 1998.

Strumpet, BBC/Destiny Films, 2001.

Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise, BBC/Destiny Films, 2001.


Road (adaptation of his play), British Broadcasting Corporation, 1987.

Vroom, Channel 4, 1988.

Two (adaptation of To; produced by British Broadcasting Corporation, 1990), Methuen (London, England), 1992.

Wedded, British Broadcasting Corporation, 1990.


British Playwright Jim Cartwright was born to a working-class family and left school at the age of sixteen. "Being a writer was a rather ridiculous thought in that environment," Cartwright said in a Chicago Sun-Times interview with Hedy Weiss. "A boxer or an actor—that was the ticket out. Still, I always liked to write in school, and eventually I wrote some poems and scenes for myself that I decided to send to the Royal Court, even though I always believed only university people could really do that. Then, … it turned out they liked it."

London's Royal Court Theatre produced Cartwright's first play, Road, about the people who live on one street in an economically depressed neighborhood. "In 1985, when I sat down to write Road," Cartwright told Weiss, "I was living on the dole … a 'casualty,' as they call it. Then the play opened at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, and suddenly, … I was a 'writer.' I started making money, getting commissions." Weiss reviewed Road, saying that "the world of Road is one where unemployment, poverty and despair have rendered love and tenderness nearly as obsolete as the shuttered factories that surround it. Nearly, but not entirely. For it is the wonder of this play that despite all the suffering it documents, it is ultimately an intensely life-affirming work."

Cartwright's second play, Bed, is a series of monologues about sleep and dreams, related on a set that is dominated by a gigantic bed. Spectator critic Christopher Edwards described the mood as "one of elegy and fantasy.…The piece is a combination of whimsy and nightmare." The plot of To revolves round a husband and wife who are forced to spend their days together as they run their pub, while struggling to cope with the death of their only child. Their desperation is matched by that of many of their customers, who make the pub a second home.

Cartwright adapted his 1992 play The Rise and Fall of Little Voice into a film. In the movie version, Brenda Blethyn plays Mari, the brassy mother whose daughter, Little Voice (Jane Horrocks), finds comfort in the recordings left to her by a father who died too young. In her room upstairs she listens to famous singers like Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Edith Piaf, Barbra Streisand, Marilyn Monroe, and others. When Mari's sleazy boyfriend, Ray (Michael Caine), hears the girl perfectly duplicate the voices she hears on her vinyl, he decides to exploit her talent. In a review of a Chicago production of the play, Weiss wrote that Cartwright "has once again conjured up a world in which the small but mightily potent forces of poetry, beauty and love prevail against a seemingly overwhelming crassness, brutality and ugliness."

In I Licked a Slag's Deodorant, a nameless character simply called Man lives under the bed of a busy prostitute. Kiss the Sky parodies the Sixties, complete with rock concerts, hippies, and reflections on Vietnam and the peace movement. A band dominates the stage and plays the hits of the period, and a character called the Traveler tells of his trip from Lancashire to Amsterdam to San Francisco and back. Giles Smith reviewed the play in New Statesman, saying that "the sixties are so casually alluded to and glossed in popular fashion and culture that it would have been satisfying to find a radical iconoclast such as Cartwright going back to the core and digging in."

In the 1980s Cartwright was one of the founders of an acting troupe consisting of unemployed drama students who would perform Psycho in homeowners' bathrooms for a price. He played the lead character, Burns, in the premier of his Prize Night, the story of a writer from northern England, now living in London, who has lost touch with his beginnings, begun drinking, become psychologically fragile, and has been invited back to his childhood school to present prizes on speech day. Choke, the central character in Hard Fruit, is a repressed gay boxer. Other characters in the play include his fighting partner Sump; Friar Jiggle, who is creating a history of the neighborhood's "pioneer pansies" in stained glass; and the extremely camp Yack.

Cartwright's screenplay credits include Strumpet and Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise. In the former, Strayman (Christopher Eccleston), a street poet, saves Strumpet (Jenna Gee), a punk guitarist, from being raped by a truck driver and takes her to his apartment. They become fast friends, and he recites his poetry, which he has scrawled on the walls, while she plays in the nude. Variety's Derek Elley wrote that "some of the best moments are the stiller ones, which recall Cartwright's Little Voice in their uncomplicated poetry."

Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise finds super vacuum salesman Tommy Rag (Timothy Spall) shooting for salesman of the year, while his trainee, Pete (Michael Begley), would be happy to sell just one, since his girlfriend is withholding sex until he makes his first sale. Tommy is a foul-mouthed, Scotch-for-breakfast kind of guy who lives in his car. Pete would rather be a sound mixer. Kirk Honeycutt reviewed both films in Hollywood Reporter, saying that "each has a freewheeling, spontaneous quality that feeds into the surrealistic events, and each contains moments and lines that lodge in the memory."



Contemporary Dramatists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 245: British and Irish Dramatists since World War II, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.


American Theatre, February, 1994, Albert Williams, review of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, p. 12.

Back Stage, April 29, 1994, Jerry Tallmer, review of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, p. 13; May 13, 1994, David Sheward, review of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, p. 37.

Chicago Sun-Times, June 23, 1987, Hedy Weiss, review of Road, section 2, p. 45; January 6, 1991, Weiss, review of To, Show section, p. 3; December 9, 1993, Hedy Weiss, "Playwright Heeds Voice: Force Driving Brit a Story in Itself," section 2, p. 45; December 13, 1993, Hedy Weiss, review ofThe Rise and Fall of Little Voice, section 2, p. 27; February 11, 1994, Hedy Weiss, "Steppenwolf Little Voice Headed for Broadway," p. 24.

Entertainment Weekly, December 11, 1998, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of Little Voice, p. 48.

Guardian (Manchester, England), November 5, 1997, Polly Teale, review of Road, section T, p. 13; October 27, 1999, Lyn Gardner, interview with Cartwright, p. 14; April 7, 2000, Michael Billington, review of Hard Fruit, p. 25.

Hollywood Reporter, September 17, 2001, Kirk Honeycutt, review of Strumpet and Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise, p. 7.

New Republic, September 12, 1988, Robert Brustein, review of Road, p. 30; March 1, 1993, Robert Brustein, review of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, p. 28.

New Statesman, June 26, 1992, Andy Lavender, review of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, p. 32; June 17, 1994, Aleks Sierz, review of Road, p. 31; August 30, 1996, Giles Smith, review of Kiss the Sky, p. 41.

Spectator, May 18, 1989, Christopher Edwards, review of Bed, p. 35; August 31, 1996, Sheridan Morley, review of Kiss the Sky, pp. 34, 36.

Variety, May 1, 2000, Matt Wolf, review of Hard Fruit, p. 44; August 27, 2001, Derek Elley, reviews of Strumpet and Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise, p. 34.


Contemporary Writers Web site,, (October 10, 2004), "Jim Cartwright."*