MacDonald, Sharman 1951-

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MacDONALD, Sharman 1951-

(Cecilia MacDonald, Cese MacDonald)

PERSONAL: Born 1951, in Glasgow, Scotland; married Will Knightley (an actor); children: two. Education: Graduated from Edinburgh University, 1972.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Alan Brodie Representation, Ltd., 211 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HF, England.

CAREER: Writer and dramatist. Actress with 7:84 Theatre Company and at Royal Court Theatre, both London, England; Thames Television writer-in-residence at Bush Theatre, London, 1984-85.

AWARDS, HONORS: London Evening Standard award for Most Promising Playwright, 1984, for When I Was a Girl, I Used to Scream and Shout.



When I Was a Girl, I Used to Scream and Shout (also see below; produced in London, England, 1984; produced in Costa Mesa, CA, 1989), Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1985.

The Beast (novel), Collins (London, England), 1986.

Night, Night (novel), Collins (London, England), 1988.

When I Was a Girl, I Used to Scream and Shout (includes The Brave and When We Were Women, both produced in London, England, 1988), Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1990.

All Things Nice (produced in London, England, 1991), Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1991.

Shades (produced in London, England, 1992), Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1992.

The Winter Guest, produced in London, England, 1993.

Shaman MacDonald: Plays (contains When I Was aGirl, I Used to Scream and Shout, When We Were Women, Borders of Paradise, and The Winter Guest), Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1995.

(With Alan Rickman) The Winter Guest (screenplay), Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1997.

Sea Urchins (radio play for the British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC]), Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1998.

After Juliet, Stanley Thornes (London, England), 1999, Faber & Faber (New York, NY), 2001.

The Girl with Red Hair (produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, then London, England, 2003), Faber & Faber (London, England), 2003.

Also author of television play Wild Flowers, Channel 4 Television, c. 1990; author of radio play Gladly My Cross Eyed Bear, broadcast 1999; author of libretto for Hey Persephone!, produced at Aldeburgh festival.

ADAPTATIONS: The Winter Guest was adapted for film by New Line Cinema, 1997, and starred Emma Thompson and Phyllida Law.

SIDELIGHTS: Sharman MacDonald, hailed as one of the most successful contemporary Scottish playwrights, sets most of her plays in her native country; however, they have been more widely produced in England than in her homeland. Most of her subject matter deals with disturbing issues deeply rooted in Scottish culture—absent or destructive fathers, destructive relationships between mothers and children, and confusion experienced by adolescents. MacDonald's characters speak in a decidedly Scots-English brogue, and a contributor for Contemporary Dramatists noted that "the subtlety of the language marks it as both affectingly truthful and achingly poetic, rooting the characters to Scotland in terms of class and geography and language and imagery."

Set in a small seaside village on Scotland's east coast, When I Was a Girl, I Used to Scream and Shout borders on a rite of passage of Fiona, following her life via flashbacks through three relationships—with her mother, her friend, and her boyfriend. While Fiona's relationship with her boyfriend and her subsequent sexual awakening is highly significant, perhaps more so is her relationship with her mother and the necessary compromises faced by the family members. F. Kathleen Foley, reviewing the play for the Los Angeles Times, wrote that MacDonald's work "deals with flawed love, mutual misunderstanding and ultimate forgiveness." The story in The Winter Guest, on the other hand, transpires in a single chilly day in a seaside town on Scotland's west coast. The characters find themselves in stalled relationships, and much of the conversation between mother and recently widowed daughter, Frances, is preoccupied with death. This and three other sets of relationships—between Frances's son and his girlfriend, between two elderly women, and between two truant schoolboys—render this play completely human and, according to the Contemporary Dramatists contributor, "a chilly denouement of innocence lost." The play was made into a film starring Emma Thompson and Phyllida Law and garnered considerable attention from the Scottish press.

In The Brave, Scottish housewife Ferlie visits her radicalized sister Susan, now living in political asylum in socialist Algeria. Ferlie uses the martial arts she learned in a night-school course to ward off an attempted rapist who, as a result, dies beside the hotel swimming pool. The body is disposed of by two Scottish workmen, Jamie and Robbie, but the entire episode is observed by the hotel barman. Karl Levett, reviewing the play for Back Stage, noted what he called MacDonald's "bewildering ambivalence" regarding her characters. "While MacDonald would have us believe that all her characters are victims," continued the critic, "Ferlie is more than fairly hysterical, Susan, the woman of action, is too frightened to move, and Jamie is a drunken bigot who evolves into helper-hero."

Commenting on the playwright's body of work, the Contemporary Dramatists contributor wrote that "MacDonald's is a unique and oddly detached voice within Scottish theatre. By conjuring and representing hugely personal memories, her plays achieve a distinctive emotional immediacy, geographical localism, and linguistic specificity. They are utterly assured in their narrativity, occasionally breathtaking in their emotional ruthlessness but always utterly honest in their representations of family."

In Stagewrite, MacDonald explained that she became a writer as the result of a bet with her actor husband. The couple were broke, had one child, and MacDonald desperately wanted another. "Will bet me a child for the sale of a script. A life. I've never worked for higher stakes. I wrote When I Was a Girl, I Used to Scream and Shout. Writing was such pleasure. All those words that had never been there before." Her writing career had begun, and in the conclusion of the article, MacDonald commented: "It's been a thrill, a joyful experience. I lead a privileged life."



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


Back Stage, August 21, 1998, Jane Hogan, review of When I Was a Girl, I Used to Scream and Shout, p. 56; August 13, 1999, Karl Levett, review of The Brave, p. 56.

Los Angeles Times, February 18, 1999, F. Kathleen Foley, review of When I Was a Girl, I Used to Scream and Shout, p. 27.

Stagewrite, summer, 1999, Sharman MacDonald, "Getting There: Sharman MacDonald."

ONLINE, (September 28, 2004), "Sharman MacDonald."*

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MacDonald, Sharman 1951-

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