Keatley, Charlotte 1960–

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Keatley, Charlotte 1960–


Born January 5, 1960, in London, England; children: Georgia. Education: Manchester University, B.A., 1982; University of Leeds, M.A., 1983.


Agent— Rod Hall Agency, Fairgate House, 74 New Oxford St., 6th Fl., London WC1A 1HB, England.


Playwright, actor, and director. Theatre critic for the Yorkshire Post, Times Educational Supplement, Plays and Players, Glasgow Herald,1981-85, and for the Financial Times; writer, actor, and director in performance art and community theatre in Leeds and Manchester, England, 1982-84; Royal Balle, performance art company, founder, 1983; teacher in drama in primary and secondary schools around Britain, 1985-86; Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, Judith E. Wilson visiting fellow in English, 1988-98; lecturer in playwriting and theatre skills, University of London, London, England, Royal Court Young People's Theatre and Women's National Touring Theatre, London, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, and Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, 1988-92; New York Stage and Film company, writer in residence, 1991. Director of plays, including Autogeddon by Heathcote Williams, produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1991. Researcher for BBC television documentary Kids behind Bars,2001.


Sunday Times award, for acting, 1980;Manchester Evening News Theatre Award for Best New Play, and Royal Court/George Devine Award, both 1987, both for My Mother Said I Never Should; Plays and Players award, 1989; Edinburgh Festival Fringe First for codirection of Autogeddon,1991; Emmy Award for research, 2003, for Kids behind Bars; Prix Danube for Badger.



Underneath the Arndale, produced in Manchester, England, 1982.

Dressing for Dinner, produced in Leeds, England, 1982.

(With Pete Brooks and Steve Schill)An Armenian Childhood, produced in Leeds, England, 1983.

The Legend of Padgate(also director), with music by Mark Vibrans (produced in Warrington, England, 1986,) Methuen (London, England), 1994.

Waiting for Martin, produced in Manchester and London, England, 1987.

My Mother Said I Never Should(produced in Manchester, England, 1987; London's West End, 1989; and New York, NY, 1990; produced as a radio play, 1989), Methuen (New York, NY), 1988.

You're a Nuisance Aren't You, in Fears and Miseries of the Third Term, produced in Liverpool and London, England, 1989.

The Singing Ringing Tree(for children), with music by Errollyn Wallen, produced in Manchester, England, 1991.

North and South(radio play), 1997.

Our Father, produced in 1998.

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, produced in Leeds, England, 1999.

Forest, produced in Blackburn, England, 2001.

Also author of plays Is Green the Same for You and The First Pirate Queen. Author of radio play series Citizens(with others), 1989-90. Author of television plays, including Badger(for children), 1989, and Falling Slowly.


Charlotte Keatley has been a prolific writer of plays for the stage, radio, and television, as well as a performer and director, but her greatest fame derives from one play,My Mother Said I Never Should. The play chronicles the lives of four women in a British family, each from a different generation, ranging from Doris, born in 1900, to Rosie, born out of wedlock in 1971 and for a time passed off as her mother's sister. This time frame means the women's lives are touched by two world wars and the social upheavals of the 1960s, and the drama deals extensively with shifts in gender roles over the years and how the generations relate to one another. The story is not presented chronologically, but skips around in time, and sometimes presents all four women together, all at the same age.

First produced in Manchester, England, in 1987,My Mother Said I Never Should went on to a production in London's West End two years later. It has since been staged around the world and has been translated into more than twenty languages. "There is never any suggestion that she should tweak the script or adapt it for a new generation," Sheena Hastings wrote in the Yorkshire Post in 2005. "Her creation is as perfect and relevant now as it was when she put down her pen in 1985."

Some critics have described the play as complex and challenging, valuable for both its content and the presentation of this content. "It is radical in its structure and in its use of female characters," remarked an essayist for Contemporary Dramatists. This writer continued: "That introduction to female characters as they appear when no men are present is one of Keatley's greatest contributions. That men seem to enjoy the play is a tribute to the quality of Keatley's writing." Hastings noted that while it is chiefly about "the close bonds, rivalries and jealousies of mothers and daughters, each generation moulded by but reacting against the preceding one," it nonetheless "evokes a strong sense of the menfolk of the family—unseen but very much felt." Theatre Journal contributor David Krasner, commenting on a Boston production of My Mother Said I Never Should, found less to praise, saying that Keatley's "language lacks subtlety" and summing the play up as "the work of a promising new play-wright in search of the right mode of expression."

At any rate, the work has enjoyed great success, becoming "one of the most widely performed plays by a female playwright," the Contemporary Dramatists writer related. Hastings called it a "modern classic" and pointed out that it was included in a list of the top one hundred plays compiled by England's National Theatre. In the years since its premiere Keatley has written numerous other plays, and in 2003 she was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company to write a play set in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, to be titled All the Daughters of War. Despite her work in television and radio, Keatley told Hastings: "It's theatre I love. Plays are about metaphor and imagery with language." Also, her plays are often about women and their place in society, and some observers welcome her attention to this topic. The Contemporary Dramatists essayist, for example, concluded: "The creation of plays that deal intelligently with the performance of gender roles makes Keatley a playwright whose work should be read and seen."



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


Theatre Journal, October, 1993, David Krasner, review of My Mother Said I Never Should, p. 384.

Yorkshire Post, October 14, 2005, Sheena Hastings, "From Generation to Generation."


Workshy Fop, (June 11, 2007), Thom Cuell, review of My Mother Said I Never Should.