Ronald Harwood Introduction

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Ronald Harwood 1934–

South African-born English dramatist, novelist, biographer, short story writer, and scriptwriter.

Harwood is best known for The Dresser (1980), a play that focuses on the complex relationship between Sir, an aging, egocentric actor, and Norman, his dresser. This play is loosely based on Harwood's experiences with the touring company of actor-manager Donald Wolfit. Harwood began with Wolfit's company in 1953, having come to London two years earlier to study acting. The five years which Harwood spent with Wolfit's company came at the end of the era during which professional touring repertory companies flourished. Harwood has memorialized the era both in The Dresser and in the biography which Wolfit asked him to write, Sir Donald Wolfit, C.B.E.: His Life and Work in the Unfashionable Theatre (1971). These are considered Harwood's most important works.

Harwood's first novel was inspired by an incident of racial violence which occurred in his native South Africa in 1960. All the Same Shadows (1961) is the story of a Cape Town Zulu houseboy who is exploited by the whites he encounters. A later novel, Articles of Faith (1973), traces racial prejudice through five generations of a prominent white family in South Africa. Among Harwood's other novels are The Girl in Melanie Klein (1969), a humorous work set in a luxury mental hospital, and Genoa Ferry (1976), a mystery-thriller. He has also written many plays for television and several for the stage, as well as adaptations of novels by J. B. Priestley, Evelyn Waugh, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 4; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 13.)