Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Timberlake Wertenbaker is acclaimed for her translations and adaptations of French and classical Greek dramatic works into English. Her notable contributions in this area include her translations and stage adaptations of plays by Marivaux, False Admissions and Successful Strategies, both produced in London in 1983 and published along with a radio play as False Admissions, Successful Strategies, La Dispute: Three Plays (1989). La Dispute, a radio play that she created from a play by Marivaux, was broadcast in 1987. Wertenbaker also translated Jean Anouilh’s play Léocadia (pr. 1940, pb. 1942), which she adapted for radio in 1985, and Mephisto (1986), Ariane Mnouchkine’s theatrical adaptation of a novel by Klaus Mann. Her translations of classical Greek plays include The Thebans: “Oedipus Tyrannus,” “Oedipus at Colonus,” and “Antigone” (1992) from Sophocles’ Oidipous Tyrannos (c. 429 b.c.e.), Oidipous epi Kolni (401 b.c.e.), and Antigon (441 b.c.e.) as well as Hecuba (1996), from Euripides’ Heklab (425 b.c.e.).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Timberlake Wertenbaker has received a number of prestigious awards for her plays, beginning with the Plays and Players Most Promising Playwright Award (1985) for The Grace of Mary Traverse. Perhaps her best-known play, Our Country’s Good, won both the Laurence Olivier Play of the Year award and the Evening Standard Play of the Year Award (1988); in its American run, the play also earned Wertenbaker the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Play (1990-1991). The Love of the Nightingale won the Eileen Anderson Central Television Drama Award (1989), and Three Birds Alighting on a Field won the Critics Circle Best West End Play (1991) as well as the Writers’ Guild Best West End Play and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (both 1992).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Carlson, Susan. “Language and Identity in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Plays.” In The Cambridge Companion to Modern British Women Playwrights, edited by Elaine Aston and Janelle Reinelt. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Carlson discusses Wertenbaker’s complex explorations, in several of her major plays, of the interplay between language and the formation of personal identity, particularly as it relates to gender.

Davis, Jim. “Festive Irony: Aspects of British Theatre in the 1980’s.” Critical Survey 3, no. 3 (1991): 339-350. Davis discusses the original production of Our Country’s Good in the context of contemporary British drama. He concludes that the play is an apology for theater as a medium that can empower, liberate, and educate both practitioners and audience.

Dymkowski, Christine. “‘The Play’s the Thing’: The Metatheatre of Timberlake Wertenbaker.” In Drama on Drama: Dimensions of Theatricality on the Contemporary British Stage, edited by Nicole Boireau. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. Dymkowski explores Wertenbaker’s use of plays and the discourse of theater within her plays. Major works treated include Our Country’s Good and The Love of the Nightingale.

Rabey, David Ian. “Defining Difference: Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Drama of Language, Dispossession, and Discovery.” Modern Drama 33 (December, 1990): 518-528. Rabey analyzes a range of Wertenbaker’s plays, suggesting that crisis in her work is a consequence of an individual not being able to fit within a defined code and the resulting quest for meaning.

Taylor, Val. “Mothers of Invention: Female Characters in Our Country’s Good and The Playmaker.” Critical Survey 3, no. 3 (1991): 331-338. Taylor compares Thomas Keneally’s depiction of women characters in The Playmaker to Wertenbaker’s representation of them in Our Country’s Good. Concludes that Keneally’s women are created from a paternalistic male perspective, whereas Wertenbaker’s female characters, written from a feminist perspective, subvert the patriarchal representation of women evident in her source text.

Wilson, Ann. “Our Country’s Good: Theatre, Colony, and Nation in Wertenbaker’s Adaptation of The Playmaker.” Modern Drama 34, no. 1 (March, 1991): 23-35. In this comparison of Wertenbaker’s play to its source, Thomas Keneally’s The Playmaker, Wilson argues that in the novel, the personal relationships of the officers with the convicts essentially extend their roles as agents of colonization, whereas in the play, these relationships allow each to recognize the other’s humanity.