Caryl Churchill Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Although Caryl Churchill is known primarily as a playwright, her writing career actually began with radio plays in the early 1960’s, when The Ants was broadcast in 1962. The Ants was followed by other radio plays, including Lovesick (1967), Identical Twins (1968), Abortive (1971), Not, Not, Not, Not, Not Enough Oxygen (1971), Schreber’s Nervous Illness (1972), Henry’s Past (1972), and Perfect Happiness (1973). Churchill has also written several teleplays: The Judge’s Wife (1972), Turkish Delight (1974), The After-Dinner Joke (1978), The Legion Hall Bombing (1978), and Crimes (1981).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Caryl Churchill is claimed by several political and artistic constituencies: She is hailed as a major voice for English socialists; is cited frequently by feminists; is the darling of proponents of workshops, or group construction, of plays; and is clearly a postmodern voice. Certainly, Churchill is each of these things, but, above all, she is a writer of the human presence and a champion of the individual choice. Her particular achievement is not to experiment but to experiment with a difference. Her unusual use of theatrical structure always aims to reveal the value of the eccentric individual over the concentricities of an exploitive social order. She is an established playwright whose work, though highly unusual in structure, is widely and well received in the English-speaking world, having been successfully produced both in London and in New York. Churchill won the Obie Award for best Off-Broadway play in 1982, 1983, and 1988. In 1988, she also won London’s Society of West End Theatre Award.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Aston, Elaine. Caryl Churchill. 2d ed. Plymouth, England: Northcote House, 2001. From the series Writers and Their Work. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Betsko, Kathleen, and Rachel Koenig, comps. Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights. New York: Beech Tree Books, 1987. In a provocative interview, the playwright discusses her concept of feminism and compares the London and New York productions of Cloud Nine.

Bigsby, C. W. E., ed. Contemporary English Drama. London: Edward Arnold, 1981. This collection of essays about the British theater provides a key to locating Churchill among her contemporaries. The essay by Christian W. Thomsen, “Three Socialist Playwrights: John McGrath, Caryl Churchill, Trevor Griffiths,” is informative about contemporary socialist thought in England and the way in which it is revealed in the plays of Churchill and her peers.

Cousin, Geraldine. Churchill, the Playwright. London: Methuen Drama, 1989. An excellent general study of Churchill’s drama. All the issues present in her work are examined as they are found in the plays themselves.

Fitzsimmons, Linda, comp. File on Churchill. London: Methuen Drama, 1989. This brief volume is a compilation of “file material” on Churchill, including lists of sources to consult, quotations from articles about the playwright, biographical data, production information, and reviews of productions. An excellent and dependable sourcebook.

Kaysser, Helen, ed. Feminism and the Theatre. Basingstoke, England: Macmillan, 1988. A collection of essays on feminists in theater. Includes an excellent essay on Churchill by Sue Ellen Case, a leading feminist critic. The volume can aid those interested in placing Churchill in the context of contemporary feminist thinking. It is also instructive in the uses of feminist thinking in Churchill’s work.

Kieburzinka, Christine Olga. Intertextual Loops in Modern Drama. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001. Contains excellent chapter on the construction of Mad Forest, revealing how Churchill cooperated with various workshop groups in the writing and structuring of her plays, in this case a group of students from London and Romania.

Kritzer, Amelia Howe. The Plays of Caryl Churchill: Theatre of Empowerment. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. Covers Churchill’s works up to Serious Money from a feminist perspective, outlining the theoretical foundations behind Churchill’s style.

Randall, Phyllis, ed. Caryl Churchill: A Casebook. New York: Garland, 1989. A collection of essays pertaining to Churchill as a working dramatist.