Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
Howard John Brenton was born in Portsmouth, England, on December 13, 1942, during the German blitzes of World War II. His parents were Donald Henry Brenton and Rose Lilian (née Lewis) Brenton. Donald Brenton retired in the early 1960’s after twenty-five years as a law-enforcement officer and joined the Methodist Church, eventually becoming an ordained minister in that denomination. His avocations included the theater, in which he participated frequently as an amateur stage actor and director. Howard Brenton’s interest in writing and the theater began quite early in life in imitation of his father. Traveling all over England and Wales with his family, Brenton was glum and rebellious even as a child, enjoying the nonauthoritarian environment of the stage and the privacy of writing. At age nine, he adapted a comic strip into a short play. The youthful Brenton also wrote poems and three novels, in addition to completing a biography of Adolf Hitler at age seventeen. Brenton attended grammar school and was graduated from Chichester High School in West Sussex. He initially wanted to be a visual artist specializing in abstract paintings, and with that end in mind, he enrolled at Corsham Court, an art college in Bath. Changing his mind at the last minute, he dropped art school and made plans to attend St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge, to study writing. In later years, Brenton said that he hated his Cambridge years despite the fact that he was a promising student...
(The entire section is 1528 words.)
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Howard John Brenton is known for his plays of political and social satire, which have been successful on the middle-class stages of London’s legitimate theater. The son of a policeman who later became a Methodist minister, Brenton began writing plays at the age of nine, and his early works from the 1970’s concern children whose violence imitates that of the adult world in which they belong. During this period in his career, Brenton developed certain trademarks of his style, which include a cartoonlike quality of his characters, his vision of an Orwellian society in decay, and images of sexual perversity.
In 1969, Brenton found himself the only audience member at a performance by the newly established fringe company Portable Theatre; the show was canceled, and everyone went out for a drink. As a result of Brenton meeting David Hare on this occasion, he was commissioned to write a play, Christie in Love, which was directed by Hare in 1969. Out of this first project grew a collaborative relationship that produced many plays, the most successful being Pravda: A Fleet Street Comedy. As a result of Christie in Love, Brenton won the Arts Council’s John Whiting Award in 1970 and received an Arts Council Drama Bursary for the next season. On January 31, 1970, he married Jane Margaret Fry.
The plays that Brenton wrote during his years with the Portable Theatre are highly experimental and provocative and were designed for...
(The entire section is 885 words.)