David Hare Hare, David (Vol. 132) - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

David Hare 1947-

English dramatist, screenwriter, essayist, interviewer, and memoirist.

The following entry presents an overview of Hare's career through 1999. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volumes 29 and 58.

Hare distinguished himself during the 1970s as a playwright concerned with contemporary social and political issues. Considered one of the most literate of his generation of British dramatists, his works often reveal his attraction to socialism and frequently address such concerns as post-imperial Britain and the destructive nature of Britain's class system. Hare's plays typically revolve around individuals who find themselves incapable of changing either society or themselves. As a playwright, Hare uses “subversive art” to compel audience members to examine their conventional beliefs. Highly regarded for their wit and technical construction, Hare's dramas are widely praised for the variety of subjects they address and for employing complex characterization to contrast aspects of social good and evil.

Biographical Information

Hare was born June 5, 1947, the second child of a passenger-ship purser and his wife, in St. Leonards, located in Sussex, England. The family later moved to the resort town of Bexhill-on-Sea. Hare was sent as a scholarship boarder to Lancing College, a public school (a British “public” school is equivalent to a “private” school in the United States). He then studied English at Cambridge University's Jesus College, receiving his M.A. degree with honors in 1968. That same year, Hare and Tony Bicat founded the Portable Theatre, an experimental touring group that performed in sites such as storefronts and gymnasiums. Several playwrights associated with the Portable Theatre are referred to as the “Fringe Playwrights” because they expressed their politically radical views in small London theaters. Hare and Bicat staged a one-act dramatization of Kafka's Diaries, which they called Inside Out (1968), as the Portable Theatre's first play. The following year, Hare was appointed literary manager at the Royal Court Theatre, which staged his first play, How Brophy Made Good (1969). During this time, Hare began directing plays by other writers, including Howard Brenton and David Mowat. Slag (1970), which opened at the Hampstead Theatre Club, earned Hare an Evening Standard drama award, as did Pravda (1985), which he co-wrote with Brenton. In 1970, Hare was named resident dramatist at the Royal Court Theatre. That same year, he married Margaret Matheson, with whom he shares three children; the couple divorced in 1980. After years of working in fringe theaters, Knuckle (1974), Hare's first play to open in the West End (London's equivalent of Broadway), premiered; it received the 1974 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and was designated by the Times Literary Supplement as one of the best political plays of the new generation of writers. Also in 1974, Hare, together with playwright David Aukin and director Max Stafford-Clark, founded the Joint Stock Theatre Group, a company dedicated to uniting actors, writers, and directors in a spirit of creativity. One of Joint Stock's first productions was Fanshen (1975), which Hare adapted from a book by William Hinton. This play was followed by the televised production of Brassneck (1973), which Hare co-wrote with Brenton. Plenty (1978), Hare's breakthrough success in the United States, was performed in New York for the first time in 1982. In 1984, Hare began his long association with the National Theatre in London. In his third decade as a playwright, Hare released a trilogy on British institutions: Racing Demon (1990), Murmuring Judges (1991), and The Absence of War (1993). Following the spring Broadway opening of The Judas Kiss (1998), the 1998-99 Broadway theater season saw Hare accomplish the rare feat of opening three plays during the same season: The Blue Room (1998), Amy's View (1998), and Via Dolorosa (1998).

Major Works

Hare's writings consistently consider moral, ethical, and political issues. His first drama, How Brophy Made Good, offers a satirical look at the corruption that visits a left-wing intellectual after he finds success as a television personality. Slag (“gals” spelled backward), his next play, focuses on three female teachers at an English public school who challenge the institution's traditions and leadership to no avail. Through the decline of the school, Hare sought to represent the disintegration of British society. Inspired by the 1964 Labour government's failure to honor its campaign promises, The Great Exhibition (1972) explores the British political system. The play centers on a shallow politician who has been expelled from Parliament and subsequently spends his time exposing himself in a park. Knuckle, a parody of the thriller genre, involves an arms dealer investigating the disappearance of his sister. The drama explores the corruption of individuals by materialism and violence. Hare was inspired to write Plenty after reading M. R. D. Foot's book about Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents working behind enemy lines during World War II. The resulting play depicts the decline of a young woman, Susan Traherne, after she returns home from her work as an SOE agent. Disappointed by life in postwar Britain (“plenty” refers to the prosperity envisioned after the war), Susan suffers emotionally and wreaks havoc on the lives of those around her. The Secret Rapture (1988) describes the relationship between two sisters, a junior Tory Minister and a small-business owner. Following the death of their father, the latter sister is taken advantage of by her family, who strip her of her business. Hare's next drama, Racing Demon, begins a trilogy continued with Murmuring Judges and The Absence of War. The trilogy examines the deterioration of three British institutions—the Church of England, England's criminal justice system, and the Labour Party, respectively. In Racing Demon, the Reverend Lionel Espy, leader of an inner-city team ministry, faces removal by his bishop in favor of a less-liberal, more-evangelical priest. Murmuring Judges focuses on Gerard, a resident of Belfast who becomes a criminal in an effort to support his family. When Gerard is arrested on his first job, his accomplices are threatened with being framed by a detective on a drug charge. Taking as its starting point the Labour Party's loss of the 1992 election, The Absence of War, in turn, examines a desperate Labour election campaign. The party's leader, George Jones, however, is straitjacketed from presenting the qualities needed to win the election by the very image of reserved respectability that he has carefully built up. Hare published his research notes and behind-the-scenes interviews for the trilogy in Asking Around (1993). Hare's next play, Skylight (1995), contrasts self-interest and social commitment through the relationship of a wealthy restaurant owner and his former mistress, a schoolteacher, whom he pursues anew after the death of his wife. The Blue Room, one of the three Hare plays to open on Broadway during the 1998-99 season, is a loose adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde, and revolves around the relationships of five sets of lovers. Amy's View depicts the decline of a theater star just as her daughter's vulgar husband finds success as a movie director. Taking the stage for the first time in decades, Hare himself performed in Via Dolorosa, a monologue in which the playwright considers the numerous contradictions of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In addition to these works, Hare has adapted plays by Bertolt Brecht and Anton Chekhov and written screenplays for several films, including Paris By Night (1988), Strapless (1989), and Damage (1992). Hare has also published several prose works, including the essay collection Writing Left-Handed (1991) and the memoir Acting Up (1999).

Critical Reception

In a career spanning more than three decades, Hare has consistently managed to elicit the attention of critics due to the strong political and moral content of his plays and his great skill as a dramatist. During the 1990s, he firmly established himself as a dominant presence in contemporary British and American theater with a series of critical and commercial successes. Hare came to the attention of American audiences and critics with Plenty. In London, initial reviews of the play were mixed, but the play gradually began to capture the enthusiasm of audiences, a circumstance that Hare attributed to Kate Nelligan's performance in the leading role. Virtually every critic had something positive to say about Plenty when it moved to New York four years later, where it received a Tony award nomination for best play and a New York Drama Critics Circle award for best foreign play. With The Secret Rapture, Hare was credited with bringing political discussion to the more intimate level of familial relationships. While the play was cited as being the author's most personal work to date, it was also criticized as melodramatic. Writing to the New York Times, Hare took the unusual step (although not the first time for him) of addressing one of his detractors, the drama critic Frank Rich. Both playwright and critic voiced their opinions in several contributions to the Times. The dramas of Hare's British-institution trilogy—Racing Demon, Murmuring Judges, and The Absence of War—project Hare's power as a playwright to varying degrees of effectiveness. Critics generally agree that Racing Demon is the most successful of the trilogy, citing its humor and its craftsmanship, while Murmuring Judges is regarded as the least effective. The three plays that Hare opened on Broadway during the 1998-99 season also achieved widely different levels of success. Although audiences flocked to see The Blue Room (largely due to the publicity generated around a brief nude scene involving actress Nicole Kidman), it was the least popular with critics, who tended to feel that Hare was unable to draw enough humanity out of Schnitzler's work. While reviewers were more divided in their opinions of Via Dolorosa, critics overall found Amy's View convincing in its complex portrayal of conflicted individuals. When none of the these plays received a Tony Award nomination, a controversy arose on Broadway. In recognition of this neglect, the New York Drama Critics Circle presented Hare with a special award for his contributions to the theatrical season.

Principal Works

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

How Brophy Made Good (drama) 1969

Slag (drama) 1970

What Happened to Blake (drama) 1970

The Great Exhibition (drama) 1972

Brassneck [with Howard Brenton] (drama) 1973

Knuckle (drama) 1974

Fanshen [adapted from William Hinton's book Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village] (drama) 1975

Teeth ‘n’ Smiles (drama) 1975

Licking Hitler (drama) 1978

Plenty (drama) 1978

Dreams of Leaving (screenplay) 1980

A Map of the...

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Suzanne Moore (review date 9 June 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Fatal Fantasies,” in New Statesman & Society, June 9, 1989, pp. 43-4.

[In the following unfavorable review of Paris by Night, Moore discusses Hare's portrayal of right-wing women and sexual difference.]

Democracy works in mysterious ways. So mysterious in fact that in the week that we are supposed to elect our EuroMPs, most of us don’t have a clue about which of this faceless bunch of bureaucrats is supposed to represent us. But if my EuroMP looked like Charlotte Rampling I think I’d remember her.

In David Hare’s new film Paris by Night she plays such a creature. As Clara Paige, up and coming darling of the right,...

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Gerald Weales (review date 1 December 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Faulty Families,” in Commonweal, December 1, 1989, pp. 671, 676.

[In the following review, Weales discusses the problematic portrayal of the female protagonist in The Secret Rapture.]

The sound of shotguns can be heard offstage during the final scene of the first act of David Hare’s The Secret Rapture playing at the Barrymore Theatre in New York. When one of the characters grumbles that he had forgotten that country-house England spent its weekends slaughtering innocent animals, his remarks are more than an explanation of the sounds for the audience. The grumbler is a young artist who has just helped sacrifice his company and his boss—Isobel,...

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John Morrone (review date 8 January 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Women in Crisis,” in New Leader, January 8, 1990, pp. 22-3.

[In the following excerpt, Morrone offers an unfavorable assessment of Strapless, finding fault with the film's casting and characterizations.]

Four films concerning women that were presented at this fall’s New York Film Festival are now scheduled for general release. …

Strapless is playwright David Hare’s first film as writer-director to be shown in this country since Wetherby in 1985. The two films are so much alike, however, that you could call the new offering a clone of the earlier one.

Heroine Lillian (Blair Brown) is an American...

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Peter Hebblethwaite (review date 16 February 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Pastoral Problems,” in Times Literary Supplement, February 16, 1990, p. 172.

[In the following review, Hebblethwaite offers a positive assessment of Racing Demon.]

God is not mocked, but the Church of England very frequently is. Its demise has often been confidently predicted. David Hare’s play [Racing Demon] presents an inner-city team ministry, across from Westminster, in a way that manages to be compassionate, unsparing and very funny.

This is where the real pastoral work is done. But if the idea is to fill the churches, it doesn’t succeed. Less than 1 per cent of Anglicans attend church on Sundays. The Reverend Lionel Espy,...

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Douglas Kennedy (review date 23 February 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Born Again,” in New Statesman & Society, February 23, 1990, p. 44.

[In the following review, Kennedy cites Hare's Racing Demon as original for its focus on the search for vocation in a vacuous England.]

Jesus is back. Thanks to the wholesale revival of evangelical Christianity in recent years Jesus has been re-established in the public consciousness as one serious dude: a Messiah who offered believers the ultimate deal—a sense of spiritual purpose in temporal life, followed by the guarantee of eternal life in the world hereafter. And as most born again Christians readily admit, the most beguiling aspect of their spiritual rebirth was the fact...

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Richard Hornby (review date Spring 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Political Drama,” in Hudson Review, Vol. XLII, No. 1, Spring, 1990, pp. 121-29.

[In the following excerpt, Hornby complains of Hare's confused politics and “bad aesthetics” in The Secret Rapture.]

David Hare is a playwright I wish I could like, but I can’t. There are far too few political playwrights in Britain or America these days; the smug conservatives who have run both countries for the past decade certainly need the challenge that Hare provides. As I am writing this, I can look out the window of my apartment and see a homeless person, sleeping or perhaps dead, lying under a few meager blankets to ward off the twenty-degree cold. In the past,...

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Stanley Kauffmann (review date 28 May 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Changes,” in New Republic, May 28, 1990, pp. 24-5.

[In the following review, Kauffmann argues that Hare's dramatic works have taken a change for the worse, especially as evident in Strapless.]

David Hare is going to the bad, which in his case means going to the good. Until recently, most of the work of this English playwright and screenwriter has been sharp, mordant, quietly outraged, intent on dramatizing laconically the compromises and hypocrisies of our time. Such plays as Slag and Plenty and Licking Hitler and A Map of the World, whatever their flaws, held Hare’s world to a rigorous grilling. He often directed his plays,...

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Liorah Anne Golomb (essay date December 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Saint Isobel: David Hare's The Secret Rapture as Christian Allegory,” in Modern Drama, Vol. XXXIII, No. 4, December, 1990, pp. 563-74.

[In the following essay, Golomb examines aspects of Christian religious parable in The Secret Rapture, particularly within the role of the female protagonist.]

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

(John 15:19)

In his latest play, The Secret Rapture, David Hare has given us a central character, Isobel, who...

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Duncan Wu (review date 21 June 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “In the Air,” in New Statesman & Society, June 21, 1991, p. 45.

[In the following review, Wu admires the traditional dramatic ideas of Writing Left-Handed.]

David Hare’s introduction to this collection of prose pieces written since 1978 is characteristically apologetic: “I am more at ease working through invented characters,” he admits. Writing Left-Handed is distinguished by its author’s fearless, and sometimes painful, desire to own up. In his student days, he was a “precocious and shallow young man”; discussing his relationship with his theatre audiences he admits that “it is our fault, not theirs, if we do not reach them with...

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David Papineau (review date 18 October 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Turning to Crime,” in Times Literary Supplement, October 18, 1991, p. 17.

[In the following review, Papineau calls Murmuring Judges mere “easy entertainment.”]

Few things are more unacceptable than the long-term imprisonment of an innocent person. Yet the British criminal justice system seems to find these hideous mistakes easy to make and almost impossible to correct. Under pressure to secure convictions, the police are tempted to concoct cases out of bogus confessions and forged evidence. And, even after the error becomes clear, the victims can languish for years in gaol, because the judicial system has no effective safeguard against police...

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Andy Lavender (review date 25 October 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Murmurs of Dissent,” in New Statesman & Society, October 25, 1991, pp. 31-2.

[In the following excerpt, Lavender compares the work of Arthur Miller and Hare, and offers praise for the Greek influence apparent in Murmuring Judges.]

The love affair between Arthur Miller and Britain has been a long one. Recent years have seen major productions here of After the Fall, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge and Two-Way Mirror, while in turn Miller has made clear his respect for the “creative relaxation” of the British theatre scene. To prove it, his latest play, The Ride Down Mt Morgan, had its world premiere this week at Wyndham’s...

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Nicholas Lezard (review date 12 February 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Damage, in Times Literary Supplement, February 12, 1993, p. 17.

[In the following review, Lezard offers an unfavorable assessment of the film Damage. ]

On paper, the film Damage has everything going for it: directed by Louis Malle, starring Jeremy Irons and Miranda Richardson, screenplay by David Hare, based on a trashy novel by Josephine Hart. What could, possibly go wrong? And yet, as it turns out, Malle has produced something that at times is worse than his source material.

The plot of Damage is simple. Stephen Fleming, a doctor-turned-politician (Jeremy Irons) meets, and instantly falls for, Anna Barton,...

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Kirsty Milne (review date 8 October 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Small Party,” in New Statesman & Society, October 8, 1993, pp. 28-9.

[In the following review, Milne views The Absence of War as less interesting than the earlier two plays in Hare's trilogy.]

Once upon a time, there was a Labour leader who lost. He had one chance to win an election, and he lost. In private, this leader was warm and witty, a man of culture and integrity. In public, he was a windbag with a shaky grasp of policy. TV interviewers tripped him up. Shadow cabinet colleagues put him down. Rumour had it that he wasn’t up to the job.

Staff in the leader’s private office shielded, chivvied and cosseted him. They...

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Francis Wheen (review date 6 November 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Holding the Mirror up to Nature,” in Spectator, November 6, 1993, pp. 53-4.

[In the following review, Wheen criticizes Hare's Asking Around for merely being the notes and “workings” of real-life politics.]

In the days before pocket calculators and computers, pupils sitting maths exam papers would be requested to ‘show your workings’. David Hare has now shown us his, by publishing the notes he took while researching his State of the Nation trilogy for the National Theatre. For Racing Demon, a play about the Church of England, he visited the General Synod and inner-city vicarages; for Murmuring Judges, he spoke to police...

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Ruby Cohn (essay date 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Rare Hare, Liking Women,” in David Hare: A Casebook, edited by Hersh Zeifman, Garland Publishing, 1994, pp. 23-43.

[In the following essay, Cohn examines the portrayal of women in Hare's dramas and films, noting the strengths and weaknesses of the female characters in light of harsh feminist criticism of Hare's work.]

“Raymond loved women. … It’s very rare,” says a wise woman in Strapless (70), and one might extend the statement to embrace the author/director of that film, David Hare. More than any other living male dramatist, Hare has given voice to women—on stage, film, and television. With that introduction, I sound as though I am...

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Lane A. Glenn (essay date 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Playwright of Popular Dissent: David Hare and the Trilogy,” in David Hare: A Casebook, edited by Hersh Zeifman, Garland Publishing, 1994, pp. 217-35

[In the following essay, Glenn provides an overview of the political themes, staging, and critical reception of Hare's trilogy—Racing Demon, Murmuring Judges, and The Absence of War.]

As one of Britain’s most successful playwright-polemicists, David Hare has been lauded for his ability to attract largely mainstream, middle-class audiences to productions that often tear at the very fabric of bourgeois English life. For the last fifteen years he has been assisted in his efforts by the Royal National...

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Robert L. King (review date January-February 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Big Names and Prize Winners,” in North American Review, Vol. 279, No. 1, January-February, 1994, pp. 14-9.

[In the following review, King offers a positive evaluation of Hare's trilogy—Racing Demon, Murmuring Judges, and The Absence of War.]

Throughout his prolific career as author of stage, screen and television plays, David Hare, an avowed secularist, has dramatized characters making moral choices in an amoral world. The characters are not always morally aware, much less sensitive to the values that their words evoke and their actions create, but Hare surely is. He deliberately displays people in ambiguous situations in Plenty (1978),...

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Andy Lavender (review date 25 February 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Courage and Compromise,” in New Statesman & Society, February 25, 1994, pp. 35-6.

[In the following review, Lavender favorably assesses Hare's adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's play Galileo.]

“It is treason to use Brecht without criticising him,” the east German writer Heiner Müller once said. The very business of making a version of somebody else’s play constitutes an act of criticism. It’s perhaps surprising, then, that in his version of Brecht’s The Life of Galileo at the Almeida Theatre, David Hare has treated the original with such sensitivity (not that the Brecht estate would allow anybody to do a Brecht on Brecht). Perhaps it’s...

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David Jays (review date 12 May 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Romancing the Political,” in New Statesman & Society, May 12, 1995, pp. 32-3.

[In the following review, Jays describes Skylight as “obvious and inconsistent.”]

I love my love with an S, because it is secret. It feeds on silence and its name is Skylight.

What do you tell about your love? Does your heart trumpet emotions, hallooing to the reverberate hills? Or do you nestle your love close, keep it hushed? Pre-publicity for David Hare’s new play was coy about the subject matter. Unlike his recent trilogy for the National Theatre, a weave of leader-column debates on church, law and government, Skylight slips...

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Patrick O'Connor (review date 24 November 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Haggle with Mother,” in Times Literary Supplement, November 24, 1995, p. 21.

[In the following review, O'Connor offers a tempered evaluation of Hare's adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's play Mother Courage and Her Children.]

What a long road it seems, since the first National Theatre production of Brecht’s Mother Courage, thirty years ago at the Old Vic, when Kenneth Tynan had to bargain with the Lord Chamberlain’s office over W. H. Auden’s use of the word “balls” in his translation of one of the songs. David Hare’s “new version” of [Mother Courage and Her Children,] is liberal in its use of colloquialisms. As a foreword to his...

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John Simon (review date 4 December 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hare's Breadth,” in New York, December 4, 1995, pp. 134, 136.

[In the following review, Simon praises the direction, writing, and acting in Racing Demon.]

Lincoln Center Theater finally has a winner in Racing Demon. If the late, unlamented Sacrilege showed us how not to write a controversial play about church and religion, David Hare’s Shavian spellbinder is an exemplary how-to. For this internecine combat of contrasting Christianities in the arena of the Church of England is as riveting as a boxing match and as intellectually stimulating as an Oxford Union debate. Also theater so damned good that Hare in the hereafter will be...

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Karen DeVinney (essay date 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Transmitting the Bildungsroman to the Small Screen: David Hare's Dreams of Leaving and Heading Home,” in Literature/Film Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 1, 1996, pp. 92-8.

[In the following essay, DeVinney examines elements of bildungsroman and individual states of social and political consciousness in the television versions of Dreams of Leaving and Heading Home.]

David Hare and his play writing colleagues, weaned on 1960s British university radicalism, have continued the expression of chronic social discontent begun so scathingly by John Osborne’s 1956 play Look Back in Anger. But in an effort to spread their message to a broader...

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John Lahr (review date 30 September 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Moral Affair,” in New Yorker, September 30, 1996, pp. 95-6.

[In the following review, Lahr offers a tempered evaluation of Skylight, which he views as an unsatisfying compromise between “conscience and comfort.”]

David Hare has been one of the most visible bricks in the imposing wall of British theatre since he broke through, in 1970, with Slag. His jeremiads about the collapsing state of England and his rants about social justice have been delivered in such varied and successful plays as Plenty (1978), an attack on the corruption of the upper classes; Pravda (1985, with Howard Brenton), an attack on the tabloid press;...

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John Simon (review date 7 October 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hare Apparent,” in New York, October 7, 1996, p. 50.

[In the following review, Simon praises Skylight for being “open to multiple interpretations.”]

After World War II, new British playwrights burst forth like gangbusters. It was like a bicycle race, first a whole pack, then a peloton, and finally two cyclists out front: Tom Stoppard and now David Hare. With the others declining, drying up, or dead, the race remains to these two.

Hare came from behind. Slag, Knuckle, and Teeth ‘n’ Smiles showed great promise but had something slightly limiting about them. Other plays—Plenty, A Map of...

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Stefan Kanfer (review date 7-21 October 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Political Cartoons,” in New Leader, October 7-21, 1996, pp. 22-3.

[In the following review, Kanfer offers an adverse appraisal of Skylight, finding fault in the play's one-sided sociopolitical argument.]

David Hare’s villain never varies. Different guises may be assumed, but sooner or later the mask comes off to reveal the evildoer: Western capitalist society. Even in his early works the British playwright was the bard of political correctness, wagging a finger at a nation obsessed with money and dominated by white males. Lay By, written back in 1971, blamed pornography on the profit motive. Years later Hare took on the British...

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Robert Brustein (review date 18 November 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Whose Faust Is It Anyway,” in The New Republic, November 18, 1996, pp. 28-30.

[In the following review, Brustein gives a negative evaluation of Skylight, though he praises the performance of Michael Gambon in the Royale Theatre production of the play.]

David Hare’s new play, Skylight (Royale Theatre), has the advantage of a really shattering performance by Michael Gambon, who at the present time may very well be the most powerful actor in the English-speaking world. You don’t care a whit that this hulking figure is somewhat miscast as a natty capitalist, or that he’s starring in a rather anemic play.

The argument...

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Oliver Reynolds (review date 28 February 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Shakespeare for Smaller Forces,” in Times Literary Supplement, February 28, 1997, p. 18.

[In the following review, Reynolds praises Hare's adaptation of Anton Chekhov's play Ivanov.]

The 1887 Moscow premiere of Ivanov, the first full-length play Chekhov completed, was famously shambolic. Actors taking the parts of drunks had prepared themselves so well that there was much unrehearsed upsetting of furniture. Chekhov had difficulty recognizing his own play, something compounded by the actor playing Shabyelski: “Kiselevsky, of whom I was hoping a lot, didn’t get one sentence right—literally not one. …” This débâcle may partly explain...

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John J. Su (essay date Spring 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Nostalgic Rapture: Interpreting Moral Commitments in David Hare's Drama,” in Modern Drama, Vol. XL, No. 1, Spring, 1997, pp. 23-37.

[In the following essay, Su examines Hare's sentimental vision of an idealized British past and its underlying function as a point of reference for interpreting contemporary political realities and moral conflicts.]

A deep, if problematic, nostalgia for the Great Britain of World War II suffuses the work of British playwright David Hare. Susan Traherne’s exuberant cry at the end of Plenty, “There will be days and days and days like this,” exemplifies Hare’s troubled nostalgia: the promise of social equality and...

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John Lahr (review date 21 July 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “London in Love,” in New Yorker, July 21, 1997, pp. 78-9.

[In the following review, Lahr praises Amy's View.]

This summer, the English have seen two well-managed changings of the guard: the British withdrawal from Hong Kong and Sir Richard Eyre’s exodus as director of the Royal National Theatre. The fireworks Eyre has provided for his departure after his masterly nine-year stewardship include a revival of his first Royal National hit, Guys and Dolls, Tom Stoppard’s The Invention of Love, opening in October, and David Hare’s new smash, Amy’s View, at the Lyttleton, which also ends Hare’s more than twenty-five-year association...

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Robert L. King (review date November-December 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Tradition,” in North American Review, Vol. 282, No. 6, November-December, 1997, pp. 45-8.

[In the following review, King offers a positive assessment of Amy's View.]

The title character of David Hare’s latest play, Amy’s View, is the daughter of Esme Allen, a woman whose successful acting career has peaked when the London theater no longer offers actresses continuing, fulfilling work. Dominic is Amy’s lover in Act I (1979), husband in II (1985), betrayer in III (1993), and widower in IV (1995). He is a product and purveyor of popular culture, and by the play’s end he has directed a very successful, very violent film. In death, Amy remains a...

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John Lahr (review date 1 December 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Short History of Abdication,” in New Yorker, December 1, 1997, pp. 94-5.

[In the following review, Lahr offers a commendatory estimation of Hare's adaptation of Anton Chekhov's play Ivanov.]

As the lights come up on David Hare’s crisp adaptation of Ivanov (at the Vivian Beaumont), which Chekhov wrote in 1887 at the age of twenty-seven, we can make out the inevitable Russian birch trees and the inevitable murk of the Russian vastness. The landscape, which enforced a special quality of brutalizing boredom and agitation in provincial nineteenth-century life, is the backdrop—and perhaps even the shaping power—for what Chekhov saw as a defining...

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Kate Kellaway (review date 27 March 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Theatrical Inaction,” in New Statesman, March 27, 1998, p. 43.

[In the following review, Kellaway offers a favorable valuation of The Judas Kiss.]

David Hare’s superb new play The Judas Kiss is about love that disdains reason. Oscar Wilde must have known, on some level, that Lord Alfred Douglas—Bosie—was unkind, self-pitying and talentless. So why did he persist with his abject love? Was Wilde heroic or cussed? And what was it, exactly, that he found to love in Bosie? Beauty seems—in Hare’s imagined version—to have been only part of the answer.

The first act of The Judas Kiss takes place in 1895 in a bedroom in...

(The entire section is 762 words.)

Richard Hornby (review date Autumn 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Ireland Your Ireland,” in Hudson Review, Vol. LI, No. 3, Autumn, 1998, pp. 561-67.

[In the following excerpt, Hornby offers a detrimental estimation of The Judas Kiss.]

The plays and film about Oscar Wilde that have come out lately all stress his role as gay martyr. Since he got two years in a brutal Victorian prison merely for acts performed with consenting adults, also losing his home, career, income, and contact with his wife and children, Wilde would certainly qualify for that description. Nonetheless, the interesting thing is that Wilde did not think of himself as being homosexual. The best of the many books that have come out on Wilde in this decade,...

(The entire section is 864 words.)

Kate Kellaway (review date 18 September 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hare's Breadth,” in New Statesman, September 18, 1998, pp. 38-9.

[In the following review, Kellaway offers an affirmative evaluation of Via Dolorosa.]

When David Hare walked on stage on the first night of Via Dolorosa, his nerves were apparent, his voice putting a false emphasis on words. He is not an actor and this made him seem more exposed. He was like someone hanging on hard to roots on a slippery hill, determined not to fall. His gestures were asking for help. But Hare has been expertly directed by Stephen Daldry, and his fear eased as his story got underway. His own emotion and lack of actorly gloss added to the integrity, the extraordinary...

(The entire section is 778 words.)

Glen Newey (review date 18 September 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Is He Himself?,” in Times Literary Supplement, September 18, 1998, p. 25.

[In the following review of Via Dolorosa, Newey finds Hare's stage persona as writer, actor, and moralist confusing.]

Early in his new play about Israel, Sir David Hare quotes a remark by his friend David Grossman on the spirit of place. “I have some sort of mineral reaction to the place I don’t get anywhere else in the world. Just to breathe the air makes me feel happy.” Which place? The Heath—Hampstead Heath, to be precise. For Grossman, its appeal is as the Heimat of secular, if not rootless, cosmopolitanism, on a North Sea roof where not much happens, and no...

(The entire section is 1088 words.)

Kate Kellaway (review date 2 October 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Tangled up in Blue,” in New Statesman, October 2, 1998, pp. 34-5.

[In the following review, Kellaway presents a disapproving estimation of The Blue Room.]

The blue room announces itself in red neon. Yves Klein could have dreamt up the set (Mark Thompson was, in fact, responsible). The light is so blue it can make a scarlet chair its own. It appropriates man and woman in intense weather and a persistent mood indigo. A girl (Nicole Kidman) in a leather coat walks on stage carrying a cheap, pea-green handbag. She is soliciting a boorish cab driver (Iain Glen) in the first scene of this dance of desire, Hare’s fast-and-loose interpretation of Arthur...

(The entire section is 770 words.)

John Lahr (review date 28 December 1998-4 January 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Ancient and Modern,” in New Yorker, December 28, 1998-January 4, 1999, pp. 135-37.

[In the following excerpt, Lahr assesses Hare's The Blue Room as unsufferable and dispassionate.]

As the world knows, the film star Nicole Kidman is in a play—David Hare’s “freely adapted” version of Arthur Schnitzler’s sexual Viennese merry-go-round “La Ronde” (1900), whose ten dialogues have been remarketed in a down-and-dirty package as The Blue Room, at the Cort. Kidman is beautiful, leggy, and damn good at her job. She and her excellent co-star, Iain Glen, have real chemistry, and, indeed, it takes all their charisma to give the cardboard...

(The entire section is 284 words.)

John Simon (review date 29 March 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Now Playing the Strip,” in New York, March 29, 1999, pp. 73-4.

[In the following review, Simon offers a salutary estimate of Via Dolorosa.]

Does a playwright’s holding forth in person for 90 minutes about journeying to Israel and the Gaza Strip sound like good theater? No? Guess again; you’ll be riveted by Via Dolorosa. David Hare can observe, write, think (already rare enough in a dramatist), and also act. Not in the sense of political action—what can an English playwright do to compel Jews and Palestinians to live in peace?—but of being a charming actor. He can also bear witness.

Hare, who has a Jewish wife,...

(The entire section is 683 words.)

Lindsay Duguid (review date 7 May 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “England Has No Feelings, Yes?,” in Times Literary Supplement, May 7, 1999, p. 21.

[In the following review, Duguid offers an unsatisfactory appraisal of Plenty.]

David Hare was born in 1947, and grew up with films and comics about the Second World War. In 1978, when he came to write Plenty, he could put an up-to-date gloss on their tales of adventure and honour by adding elements from the recently published history of the SOE in France and the revelations of Anthony Blunt’s treachery. As in his television film Licking Hitler (1977), there is a female central character: Susan Traherne, a courier in France who, accustomed to war, cracks up...

(The entire section is 862 words.)

Further Reading

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)


Gelb, Hal. “Theater.” Nation (2 November 1992): 518-20.

Offers a positive assessment of A Map of the World, though finds fault in the play's Los Angeles production.

Homden, Carol. “The Best Lack All Conviction.” Times Literary Supplement (15 October 1993): 16.

Offers an overview and analysis of Hare's trilogy—The Absence of War, Racing Demon, and Murmuring Judges.

King, Robert L. “Recent Drama.” Massachusetts Review XXXI, Nos. 1-2 (Spring-Summer 1990): 273-86.

An unfavorable review of The Secret Rapture.


(The entire section is 300 words.)