Lowe, Stephen 1947-
LOWE, Stephen 1947-
PERSONAL: Born December 1, 1947, in Nottingham, England. Education: University of Birmingham, B.A. (drama and English; with honors), 1970; postgraduate research.
ADDRESSES: Home—4 Shirley Rd., Nottingham NG3 5DA, England; 55 Windsor Road, London N7 6JL, England. Agent—Judy Daish Associates, Ltd., 83 Eastbourne Mews, London W2 6LQ, England.
CAREER: Playwright, actor, artistic director, and educator. Stephen Joseph Theatre-in-the-Round, Scarborough, Yorkshire, England, actor and director, 1975-78; Dartington College of Arts, Devon, England, senior lecturer, 1978-82; Meeting Ground Theatre Company, Nottingham, England, artistic director, 1984—. Resident playwright, Royal Court Theatre, Riverside Studios, and Dartington College of Arts. Established M.A. program in playwriting at Birmingham University; conductor of television-and theatre-writing courses for Arvon Foundation, National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, South West Arts, Granada TV, and British Broadcasting Corporation. Member of advisory panel, Nottingham Trent University Theatre Design department; member of board, East Midlands Arts; chair, Year of the Artist 2000, East Midlands.
AWARDS, HONORS: George Devine award, 1977.
Cards (one-act; produced in London at Liberty Theatre, 1972, revised version produced in Scarborough, England, at Theatre in the Round, 1976), Samuel French (London, England), 1983).
Stars (also see below; produced in London at Liberty Theatre, 1972), published in Moving Pictures: Four Plays, 1985.
Comic Picture (includes Stars and Cards; produced in London, England, 1972), published in Moving Pictures: Four Plays,, 1985.
Touched (produced in Nottingham, England, 1977), Woodhouse (Todmorden, Yorkshire, England), 1977, revised version (produced in London at Royal Court Theatre, 1981; produced in New York, NY, 1982), Methuen (London, England), 1981.
Shooting, Fishing, and Riding, produced in Scarborough, England, 1977.
Sally Ann Hallelujah Band, produced in Nottingham, England, 1977.
The Ragged-trousered Philanthropists (adaptation of the novel by Robert Tressell; produced in Plymouth, then London, England, 1978; produced in New York, NY, 1987), Joint Stock (London, England), 1978, revised version (produced in London, 1983), Methuen (London, England), 1983.
Fred Karno's Bloody Circus, produced in London, 1980.
Moving Pictures (produced as Glasshouses in London, England, at Theatre Upstairs, 1981; produced as Moving Pictures in London, 1981), published in Moving Pictures: Four Plays, 1985.
Tibetan Inroads (also see below; produced in London, England, 1981), Methuen (London, England), 1981.
Strive (produced in Exeter, England, 1983; produced in London, England, 1987), published in Moving Pictures: Four Plays, 1985.
The Trial of Frankenstein, produced in Plymouth, England, 1983.
Seachange (produced in London, England, 1984), published in Moving Pictures: Four Plays, 1985.
Keeping Body and Soul Together (produced in London, England, 1984), published in Peace Plays 1, 1985.
(And editor) Peace Plays 1 (includes Keeping Body and Soul Together), Methuen (New York, NY), 1985.
Moving Pictures: Four Plays (includes Comic Pictures,Moving Pictures, Strive, and Seachange), Methuen (New York, NY), 1985.
Desire, produced in Nottingham, England, 1986.
Demon Lovers, produced in Loughborough, Leicestershire, then London, England, 1987.
(Adaptor) Alexander Ostrovsky, The Storm, produced in London, England, 1987.
Divine Gossip (produced in London, England, 1988), published with Tibetan Inroads, Methuen (London, England), 1988.
(Adaptor) Friedrich von Schiller, William Tell, produced in Sheffield, England, 1989.
(Editor) Peace Plays 2, Methuen (London, England), 1990.
Paradise, produced in Nottingham, England, 1990.
The Alchemical Wedding, produced in Salisbury, England, 1998.
Revelations (produced in London, England, at Hampstead Theatre, 2003), Methuen (London, England), 2003.
Cries from a Watchtower, BBC-TV, 1979.
Kisses on the Bottom, 1985.
Albion Market (series), 1986.
Coronation Street (series), 1989.
Families (series), 1990.
Ice Dance, BBC-TV, 1990.
Flea Bites, BBC-TV, 1992.
In Suspicious Circumstances, 1992.
Tell-Tale Hearts (miniseries), BBC-TV, 1992.
Also writer for Dalziel and Pascoe, BBC-TV.
SIDELIGHTS: One objective of Stephen Lowe's plays is to explore life's turning points—capture and hold open for examination those moments of significant change that hold the potential for positive discovery. In an essay for Contemporary Dramatists, Lowe explained that he considers many of his plays "political love stories; these have often led me into an exploration of 'inner language' through dreams and fairy and folk tale elements." He referred to twentieth-century Irish writer James Joyce's opinion that there are just three themes worth writing about: religion, sex, and politics. "I have discovered in my work," commented Lowe, "that the clear divisions between these create a false perspective, and the interrelation of all these elements is, to me a crucial theatrical concern, in both form and content."
Lowe's Touched, a major theatrical success, covers the one hundred days between May and August, 1945, from what would be the last battle in Europe to the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima by the United States. Lowe traces an extended family suffering unremitting tragedy through what a Contemporary Dramatists contributor called "a structured defoliation of the private hopes and fears" of the women at home struggling to maintain some semblance of structure in a community deprived of men by the war. "Touched is important because it prefigures most of Lowe's thematic concerns," continued the essayist. "Not the least of these is the belief that in order to deal with the myths history embodies, it cannot be treated like a 'theme park,' detached from the present."
Lowe's plays each contain a turning point, an epiphany in which is crystalized his thematic position. The preachy quality this gives his work has sparked chagrin in some critics, who contend that it overrides naturalism in both character development and plot. In reviewing the author's 2003 drama Revelations for the Manchester Guardian, critic Michael Billington felt the play—about four couples who meet at a lakeside retreat for a beginning-swingers' weekend—is "thematically over-burdened." In addition to exploring "the voyeuristic nastiness of reality T.V.," the playwright "adds a religious dimension by suggesting that we are still crippled by Pauline guilt," according to Billington, who concluded: "Lowe comes bearing more messages than a Yuletide postman." However, as Philip Fisher wrote in his review for the British Theatre Guide, by the second half of the play—in which Lowe brings public and private worlds together—the "revelations of the title fly around and force each of the individuals to face up to themselves and appreciate their partners." Lowe's "moment" thus arrives, and, as Fisher commented, "the post interval navel-gazing helps to give the play and its initially shallow characters some depth and meaning."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Dramatists, sixth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Guardian (Manchester, England), December 16, 2003, Michael Billington, review of Revelations.
Times (London, England), January 27, 1992, Benedick Nightingale, review of Touched.
British Theatre Guide Online, http://www.britishtheatregide.info/ (September 28, 2004), "Stephen Lowe."*