Ronald Harwood Anthony Curtis - Essay

Anthony Curtis

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Mr. Harwood is a serious writer with a number of novels to his credit and a biography of Donald Wolfit,… but he is also a writer who has made a good living out of films and television and has learnt how to discipline himself to the requirements of those media. A Family seems to have been written by two Mr. Harwoods in a not altogether harmonious collaboration. Harwood I, the serious artist, is fascinated as many British playwrights have been before him, by the love-hatred which a closely-knit family group inspires in its members. He has something to say about what happens when someone in his generation, and someone in his children's generation, tries to break away from the crippling embrace of the family to live their lives as private individuals in complete autonomy. He sits down and works out a draft of the idea which he then shows to Harwood II, the film and TV writer. (p. 49)

As with all collaborations the final result is a compromise not wholly pleasing to either party but efficient enough to hold an audience for an evening in which curiosity and admiration alternate with embarrassment and puzzlement. Harwood I's original idea—a rather moving and frightening idea—that in the end we love the tyranny of the family more than we love our freedom, is overlaid by a lot of cheap comedy and melodrama, pencilled in at the behest of Harwood II, and the whole thing is riddled with contradictions at both the realistic and the psychological levels that come perilously close to robbing the play of its seriousness. (p. 50)

Anthony Curtis, in a review of "A Family," in Drama, No. 130, Autumn, 1978, pp. 49-50.