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David Edgar

David Edgar has been writing plays professionally since 1971. He has worked with the artistic directors of both the National Theatre (Peter Hall) and the Royal Shakespeare Company (Trevor Nunn). He has had more plays premiered by the RSC than any other playwright.

His original plays for the RSC include: DESTINY (1976); MAYDAYS (1983, revived in a new version in 2018); PENTECOST (1994, transferring to the Young Vic, London, 1995) and WRITTEN ON THE HEART (2011, transferring to the Duchess Theatre, London, 2012). PENTECOST is the second in a series of plays about Eastern Europe after the Cold War, following THE SHAPE OF THE TABLE (National Theatre 1990) and preceding THE PRISONERS DILEMMA (RSC, 2001).

His adaptations include plays based on the memoirs of titular characters MARY BARNES (Birmingham Rep, 1978) and THE JAIL DIARY OF ALBIE SACHS (RSC, 1978); Dickens’ NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (RSC, 1980, transferring to Broadway in 1981); Stevensons’s DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE (RSC, 1991); Julian Barnes’s ARTHUR & GEORGE (Birmingham Rep, 2010) and Dickens’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL (RSC, 2017, 2019, 2022).

His work this century stage work includes: ALBERT SPEER (National Theatre, 2000); PLAYING WITH FIRE (National Theatre, 2005); TESTING THE ECHO (Out of Joint, 2008) and IF ONLY (Chichester Festival Theatre, 2013). He wrote and performed the solo show TRYING IT ON, which was performed at the Birmingham Rep, the RSC’s Other Place, the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, the Traverse Theatre during the 2019 Edinburgh Festival, and on tour.

He has written two community plays for Dorchester: ENTERTAINING STRANGERS (1985) and A TIME TO KEEP (with Stephanie Dale, 2007); in a reworked form, ENTERTAINING STRANGERS was performed by the National Theatre in 1987.

His play BLACK TULIPS was one of 12 short pieces which made up THE GREAT GAME, a programme of plays about Afghanistan produced by the Tricycle Theatre in 2009, which toured to America in 2010. He contributed CONCERNING FAITH to SIXTY-SIX BOOKS, a programme of responses to the books of the Bible presented at the Bush Theatre and in Westminster Abbey in 2011.

He has written English versions of Brecht's GALILEO (Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2005); Ibsen's THE MASTER BUILDER (Chichester Festival Theatre, 2010) and Brecht’s MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN (Stratford Festival of Canada, 2014). 

He has adapted many of his stage plays for television and radio. His original plays for television include: THE EAGLE HAS LANDED (Granada Television, 1973); I KNOW WHAT I MEANT (Granada, 1974); BUYING A LANDSLIDE (BBC2, 1992); CITIZEN LOCKE (Channel 4, 1994) and the three-part serial VOTE FOR THEM (with Neil Grant, BBC2, 1989). He wrote the screenplay for Trevor Nunn’s film LADY JANE (Paramount, 1986). His original radio plays include: ECCLESIASTES (BBC, 1977); A MOVIE STARRING ME (BBC, 1991); TALKING TO MARS (BBC, 1996) and SOMETHING WRONG ABOUT THE MOUTH (BBC, 2007); he also adapted Eve Brook's novel THE SECRET PARTS (BBC, 2000).The BBC issued a 17-play Collection of his plays for radio in 2023.

Edgar  won the John Whiting Award for DESTINY; the Plays and Players Best Play award for MAYDAYS; the Society of West End Theatres and New York Tony Best Play awards for NICHOLAS NICKLEBY and the Evening Standard Best Play award for PENTECOST.

His book about playwriting, How Plays Work, was published by Nick Hern Books in 2009. In 1989, he founded Britain's first graduate playwriting course at the University of Birmingham, and was appointed Professor of Playwriting Studies in 1995. He was Humanitas visiting Professor of Drama at Oxford in 2014-15. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and has honorary degrees from several universities, including Bradford, Birmingham, Warwick and Worcester. He writes regularly about art and politics for The Guardian, The London Review of Books and other journals. He was President of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain from 2007 to 2013, and received the Writers' Guild award for his Outstanding Contribution to Writers and Writing in 2023.

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