Simon Gray Biography

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(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Simon Gray was born on Hayling Island, Hampshire, England, on October 21, 1936, the son of James Davidson and Barbara Celia Mary (née Holliday) Gray. The elder Gray was a pathologist and first-generation Canadian of Scottish ancestry, and when World War II began, Simon Gray was sent from Great Britain to his grandparents’ home in Montreal. He returned to the United Kingdom for a while after the war and then moved back and forth between England, Canada, France, and Spain. He married Beryl Mary Kevern, a picture researcher, on August 20, 1964, and they had a son and a daughter. The couple divorced, and in 1997, Gray married Victoria Rothschild. He has had bouts with cancer and alcoholism. He became a recovered alcoholic in 1996, when alcoholism killed his much younger brother, Piers, at the age of forty-nine. This experience shows up in his plays, most particularly in Japes.

Gray, a lecturer in English, taught at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1965 through 1966 and was on the faculty at Queen Mary College of the University of London from 1965 to 1984. This experience, together with his educational background, served as the source of many of the dramatist’s subjects (and characters) and his literate style. He attended the Westminster School in London, and he received a B.A. (honors in English) from Dalhousie University in Canada in 1958, and another B.A. (again with honors in English) from Cambridge University in England in 1962. Between the awarding of his two bachelor’s degrees, Gray served as a lecturer at the University in Clermont-Ferrand, France. He resided in France from 1960 to 1961 and in Spain from 1962 to 1963.

In 1987, Gray’s play Melon was produced in London, and that same year saw the production of his screenplay A Month in the Country. Hidden Laughter was produced in Brighton in 1989, and in London a year later. The Holy Terror, a revision of Melon, was broadcast in 1989 on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s radio and was published in 1990. The 1991 Arizona production was its premiere as a stage piece. In 2008, Gray was able to publish the final part of his three-part memoirs before his death on August 6 in London, England.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Simon James Holliday Gray was one of the wittiest and most comically acerbic of modern English playwrights. As a child, he was sent to stay with relatives in Canada during World War II before returning to England to complete a public school education at Westminster. His family then returned to Canada, where Gray spent three years at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. Afterward, he returned to Europe, where he studied English literature at Clermont-Ferrand in France and also, for eight years, at Cambridge University. From 1963 to 1964, he spent more time in Canada as an instructor of English at the University of British Columbia. Gray’s sharp eye for the peculiar manners and idiosyncrasies of English social life has, therefore, been sharpened by lengthy stays in other countries. In 1964, he married Beryl Mary Kevern, and in 1965 he accepted a post as lecturer in English at the University of London, where he remained until 1985.{$S[A]Reade, Hamish;Gray, Simon}

Gray’s writing career started with a series of largely unmemorable novels, followed by his much more successful television plays. One of these, Death of a Teddy Bear, based upon the Alma Rattenbury murder case of the 1930’s (an oppressed wife murders her impotent husband), won Gray the British Writers Guild Award. Gray rewrote the play for the stage as Molly, but the stage version was, by Gray’s own admission, not as artistically successful.

Yet it was as a writer of stage plays that Gray made his name. His plays seem an amalgam of the thematic and stylistic dramatic trends of the new dramatic era that began in 1956 with John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger. He has been frequently compared with Osborne, Joe Orton, Harold Pinter, and Tom Stoppard. Early plays such as Wise Child, Dutch Uncle, and Spoiled evoke the bizarreness of...

(The entire section is 1,223 words.)