Jeffreys, Stephen 1950-
JEFFREYS, Stephen 1950-
Born April 22, 1950, in London, England; married Annabel Arden (a director); children: two sons. Education: Southampton University, B.A. (with honors), 1972, coursework toward M.Phil., 1972-74.
Agent—Tom Erhardt, Casarotto Ramsay Ltd., National House, 60-66 Wardour St., London W1V 3HP, England.
Playwright. Upton House Comprehensive School, London, England, teacher, 1974-75; Cumbria College of Art and Design, Cumbria, England, lecturer in drama and English, 1975-78; Brewery Arts Centre, writer-in-residence, 1978-80; Pocket Theatre, Cumbria, founder, 1978; Paines Plough, London, writer-in-residence, 1987-89; Royal Court Theatre, London, part-time literary associate, 1991—.
London Sunday Times national student drama award, 1977, for Like Dolls or Angels; Edinburgh Fringe First awards, 1978, for Mobile 4, and 1989, for Carmen 1936; London Evening Standard Award for most promising playwright, 1989, for Valued Friends; Critics Circle Award for most promising playwright, 1989; Plays and Players Award, 1989.
Where the Tide Has Rolled You, produced in Southampton, England, 1973.
Counterpoint, produced in Southampton, England, 1975.
Like Dolls or Angels (also see below), produced in London, England, 1977.
Mobile 4 (produced in London, England, 1978), Samuel French (London, England), 1979.
Darling Buds of Kendal, produced in Kendal, Cumbria, England, 1979.
Year of the Open Fist (for children), produced in Kendal, Cumbria, England, 1978.
The Vigilante Trail, produced in Kendal, Cumbria, England, 1979.
Jubilee Too, produced in London, England, 1980.
Watches of the Night (also see below), produced in Kendal, Cumbria, England, 1981.
Imagine, produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1981.
(Adapter with Gerry Mulgrew) Peer Gynt (adapted from the play by Henrik Ibsen), produced in Kendal, Cumbria, England, 1981.
(Adapter) Hard Times (adapted from the novel by Charles Dickens; produced in Kendal, Cumbria, England, 1982; produced in London, England, 1987), Samuel French (London, England), 1987.
Futures, produced in Kendal, Cumbria, England, 1984.
Clearing House, produced in Kendal, Cumbria, England, 1984.
(Adapter) Carmen 1936 (also see below; adapted from the novel by Prosper Mérimée), produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1984; produced in London, England, 1985.
Returning Fire, produced in London, England, 1985.
Desire, produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1986.
The Garden of Eden, produced in Carlisle, Cumbria, England, 1986.
Valued Friends (produced in London, England, 1989), published in First Run 2, edited by Kate Harwood, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1990.
The Clink (produced in London, England, 1990), Nick Hern (London, England), 1990.
(Adapter) A Jovial Crew (adapted from the play by Richard Brome), produced in London, England, 1992.
A Going Concern (produced in London, England, 1993), Nick Hern (London, England), 1993.
The Libertine (also see below; produced in London, England, 1994), Nick Hern (London, England), 1994, Dramatic Publishing Company (New York, NY), 1997.
I Just Stopped By to See the Man (produced at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, IL, 2000), Nick Hern (London, England), 2000.
Interruptions, produced at University of California, Davis, 2001.
The Libertine (screenplay; based on his play of the same title), First Choice Films, 2004.
Also author of radio plays, including Like Dolls or Angels, 1979; Watches of the Night, 1981; Absolute Decline, 1984; Carmen 1936, 1992; and The Libertine, 1996.
British dramatist Stephen Jeffreys has produced a wide range of plays in a variety of styles, with much of his work drawing on historical material. He has also penned a number of acclaimed adaptations, such as his dramatization of Charles Dickens's Hard Times, which includes both narration and dialogue. Jay Carr, in a review of Hard Times for the Boston Globe, wrote that the adaptation "bristles with vigor and is enormously entertaining." Carr further remarked that "most of the momentum comes from the material itself, and Jeffreys has transferred it from the page to the stage with a sure sense of dramatic pulse and a gratifying way of savoring the writing without ever allowing the line to go slack."
In the case of A Jovial Crew, a 1641 play by Richard Brome, Jeffreys rewrote nearly half of the material, but maintains Brome's style and language so perfectly that it is impossible to determine which author is responsible for what dialogue. New Statesman and Society contributor Andy Lavender wrote that "unless you are a specialist in arcane play texts of the mid-seventeenth century, you cannot see the joins between Brome's writing and Jeffreys's, 350 years later." He went on to say that "Jeffreys has taken A Jovial Crew out of the garage and set it chugging."
An example of Jeffreys' use of historical material for his own original work is the 1994 play The Libertine, which recounts the life of the second earl of Rochester, John Wilmot, a notorious rake who wrote racy poetry and was banished from court at least two times for his scandalous behavior. New Republic reviewer Robert Brustein stated that "the playwright invites us to regard Rochester's headlong decent into dissipation and debauchery not as a moral blank so much as the painful acting out of his own sense of absurdity." Victor Gluck, writing for Backstage, commented that "Jeffreys has counted on purple passages, quaint Restoration colloquialisms, erudite history, and naughty vulgarity to carry his story," but Brustein concluded that "Jeffreys's theatrical affinity with Rochester, coupled with a good historian's feel for Restoration manners and morals, has helped him fashion a more trenchant portrait of the period than did many of its playwrights." Jeffreys later wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of The Libertine, directed by Laurence Dunmore and starring Johnny Depp.
In The Clink, which takes place during the end of the Elizabethan period, Jeffreys uses entirely fictional characters but writes in the style of the time, including blank verse, couplets, and punning reminiscent of William Shakespeare. Even in his modern works, his dialogue and style blend seamlessly with the time period, such as in A Going Concern, which takes place in 1966 and is written in the straightforward manner of plays from the 1960s. Chicago Sun-Times contributor Hedy Weiss wrote of A Going Concern: "Beautifully observed and sharply written, the play uncannily evokes the multi-tasked world of a small workshop, and the many different personalities whose pasts and futures are tied up in it."
With I Just Stopped By to See the Man, Jeffreys explores a legend surrounding early twentieth-century blues guitarist Robert Johnson. Reportedly, Johnson only learned to play after he sold his soul to the devil one night when they met at a crossroads. Johnson died in 1938 at the age of thirty-seven when the husband of one of his lovers poisoned him. Jeffreys offers a fictionalized account reflecting these events in which blues player Jesse Davidson appears to have vanished, but in reality has holed up with his daughter, an educated activist who is hiding for her own reasons. Within the confines of the story, Jeffreys addresses attitudes toward music, race, and myth. Jay Reiner, reviewing I Just Stopped By to See the Man for the Hollywood Reporter, called it "a flawed but oddly affecting play about the power and authenticity of the blues." Reiner concluded, "Jeffreys writes insightful, live dialogue—funny, too."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Backstage, January 16, 1998, Victor Gluck, review of The Libertine, p. 29.
Boston Globe, July 8, 1986, Jay Carr, "Another Enjoyable Romp through Dickens," p. 23.
Chicago Sun-Times, July 13, 2001, Hedy Weiss, review of A Going Concern, p. 41; November 15, 2002, Mary Houlihan, "British Playwright Returns to Steppenwolf with the Blues Travelin' 'Man,'" p. 9.
Chicago Tribune, October 14, 1999, Chris Jones, "Time Well Spent: Jeffreys' Post-Modern 'Clink' Is an Engaging Comedy with Few Faults," p. 2.
Guardian (Manchester, England), November 29, 2000, Lyn Gardner, "Pact with the Devil," p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter, September 19, 2003, Jay Reiner, review of I Just Stopped By to See the Man, p. 73.
New Republic, February 27, 1995, Robert Brustein, "The Royal Court in Spunky Middle Age," review of The Libertine, p. 27.
New Statesman and Society, May 14, 1993, Andy Lavender, "Beg, Borrow and Steal," review of A Jovial Crew, pp. 28-29; December 16, 1994, David Jays, review of The Libertine, pp. 54-55.
Wall Street Journal, March 28, 1996, Joel Henning, "Theater:…And John Malkovich at Steppenwolf,"review of The Libertine, section A, p. 12.
Contemporary Writers Web site,http://www.contemporarywriters.com/ (September 27, 2004), "Stephen Jeffreys."
Doollee Web site,http://www.doollee.com/ (September 27, 2004), "Stephen Jeffreys."
Dramatic Publishing Web site,http://www.dramaticpublishing.com/ (September 27, 2004), "Stephen Jeffreys."*