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Berkoff, Steven


BERKOFF, STEVEN (1937– ), English actor, director, and writer. Born in Stepney, London, he studied drama at the Webber-Douglas School in London and mime at the Ecole Jacque le Coq in Paris.

He established himself as one of the most innovative theater personalities in the last quarter of the 20th century. As a writer he adapted many works for the stage including Kafka's The Trial and "Metamorphosis" and Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher." His first professional production was an adaptation of Kafka's "In the Penal Colony."

His personal acting style is original and highly physically controlled – the expression both hypnotic and threatening; although controlled, his stage rages are full of hurt and foreboding leaving an audience little solace. Each performance is unique.

He is a prolific playwright whose original works include Decadence, Greek, West, and East. Much of his work is based on the vernacular of the present day – West with the social language and mores of the West End; East with the East End of London, for example. Kvetch is, at the same time, amusing and discomfiting; it received the London drama critics' award as the best comedy of 1991. The language of his works is acerbic, clear, intelligent, and unpretentious. Many of his chosen characters as writer or actor are either disturbed or social misfits. He is also a master in the transposition of mythology on to modern life.

He has appeared in a number of films and tv productions, such as Octopussy, Beverly Hills Cop, Rambo, and The Krays, playing "baddies" (film villains) with relish and undisguised glee.

Berkoff has toured and acted in his own productions of Hamlet, Macbeth, Salome, and Coriolanus throughout Europe, Israel, and Australia. In his book on the theater Coriolanus in Deutschland he describes his unease as a Jew in Munich. Other publications include I Am Hamlet, A Prisoner in Rio, The Theatre of Steven Berkoff (1992), and an autobiography, Free Association (1996). In 1983 Steven Berkoff received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Award for directing.

add. bibliography:

R. Cross, Steven Berkoff and the Theatre of Self-Performance (2004).

[Sally Whyte]

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