Other Literary Forms

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Simon Gray is primarily known as a stage dramatist, but he began his playwriting career as an author of television scripts, including The Caramel Crisis (1966), Death of a Teddy Bear (1967), A Way with the Ladies (1967), Sleeping Dog (1967), Pig in a Poke (1969), The Dirt on Lucy Lane (1969), Style of the Countess (1970), The Princess (1970), and Man in a Sidecar (1971).

Besides being a successful dramatist, Gray also published novels: Colmain (1963), Simple People (1965), Little Portia (1967), A Comeback for Stark (1968; under the pseudonym Hamish Reade), and Breaking Hearts (1997). Gray also used the pen name James Holliday. Gray became editor of Delta magazine in 1964, and he coedited with Keith Walker an anthology entitled Selected English Prose that was published in 1967.

In 1975, the playwright wrote the screenplay version of his play for the film Butley, directed by Harold Pinter and starring Alan Bates, re-creating his stage role as the title character. The movie was made as part of the American Film Theatre series.

Achievements

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Simon Gray received many of the highest awards for dramatists. Death of a Teddy Bear won a Writers Guild Award, Butley received the Evening Standard (London) Award for Best Play of the Year in 1972, and Otherwise Engaged was voted Best Play by the New York Drama Critics Circle. Moreover, the filming of Butley and the option taken to film Death of a Teddy Bear are indicators of the dramatist’s popularity.

Bibliography

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Blaydes, Sophia B. “Literary Allusion as Satire in Simon Gray’s Butley.” Midwest Quarterly 18 (Summer, 1977): 374-391. Discusses the academic setting of Butley and concentrates on explicating some of the more obscure literary allusions. Includes an end note on the making and distribution of the film version in 1975.

Burkman, Katherine H., ed. Simon Gray: A Casebook. New York: Garland, 1992. An introduction and a chronology are followed by fourteen essays, a bibliography, and an index. This volume is the first book-length exploration of Gray’s work, from Wise Child to Hidden Laughter. Contains single-work essays, overviews, and articles on adaptations. The Holy Terror, a revision of Melon, which was produced in Arizona in 1991, is mentioned in the chronology but is not dealt with in the essays.

Nightengale, Benedict. “Notes from the Front Lines of Life.” The New York Times, September 20, 1992. Summarizes Gray’s career.

Nothof, Anne. “The Pictures of Simon Gray: Dramatizing Degeneration.” Modern Drama 43, no. 1 (2000): 56-65. The essay portrays the artist as a disillusioned idealist whose degeneration (like that of the picture of Dorian Gray) is manifested in his plays, his protagonists, and his autobiographical notes.

Rich, Frank. “Stage: Simon Gray Play, The Common Pursuit.” The New York Times, October 20, 1986, p. C17. This first play since Quartermaine’s Terms is about Cambridge “litterateurs from twenty years ago.” Rich provides some history of the play’s New Haven tryout and change of directors, one of whom is Gray himself. Includes a description of the play’s staging.

Rusinko, Susan. British Drama, 1950 to the Present: A Critical History. Boston: Twayne, 1989. Includes an article assessing Gray’s plays.

Shafer, Yvonne. “Aristophanic and Chekhovian Structure in the Plays of Simon Gray.” Theater Studies 31/32 (1984/1985): 32-40. Deals extensively with Otherwise Engaged (whose central character is “a solitary searcher for order and peace in a chaotic world”) and Quartermaine’s Terms, with a Chekhovian atmosphere and a “central character moving through a landscape of incipient disaster, unable to take any action to save himself.”

Stafford, Tony J. “Simon Gray.” In British Playwrights, 1956-1995: A Research and Production Sourcebook, edited by William W. Demastes. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. This entry has an excellent bibliography and fine descriptions of several of Gray’s plays along with critics’ responses and an overall assessment of his career.

Stern, Carol Simpson. “Gray, Simon.” In Contemporary Dramatists, edited by Thomas Riggs. 6th ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1999. A thorough account of Gray’s work and his relationship with the British theater.

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Critical Essays