Howard Barker's first play was performed at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in 1970. Subsequently, his works were played by the Royal Court, Royal Shakespeare Company, The Open Space Theatre, Sheffield Crucible and the Almeida. He is currently Artistic Director of The Wrestling School, a company established to disseminate his works and develop his theory of production. His work is played extensively in Europe, in translation, in The United States, and in Australia . He writes regularly for radio, both in England and Europe . He is the author of plays for marionettes and has written three librettos for opera. Howard Barker is the author of two works of theory, and five volumes of poetry. He is also a painter. His work is held in national collections in England (V&A, London) and Europe. Barker has written a collection of essays on the nature of theatre, published as Arguments For A Theatre (Manchester University Press).
Howard Barker's plays are known for their fearless exploration of power, sexuality and human motivation. His texts overflow with rich language, challenging ideas, history, beauty, violence and imaginative comedy, all brought together within the extremes of human experience to create a powerful and compelling theatrical experience.
Barker's texts are constructed on the premise that theatre is a necessity in society, a place for imagination and moral speculation, not constrained by the demands of realism or any ideology. Barker describes his work with the term Theatre of Catastrophe. In Barker's work, no attempt is made to satisfy any demand for clarity or the deceptive simplicity of a single 'message'; each performance is like a public challenge in which actors and audience are inspired to find meaning and resonance from a multiplicity of interpretations.
Long considered the enfant terrible of contemporary British theatre and the subject of heated debate, whether loved or hated, his plays are impossible to ignore.
On the European mainland especially, Barker is considered one of the major writers of modern European theatre. In the last three years, 27 of his works have been staged in six languages in 17 countries as diverse as Canada, New Zealand and Slovenia. Yet in Britain, his home country, he is largely unknown; during this period there have been just four productions of his plays.
Howard Barker plays in French translation:
Sept Lears ISBN 2-905158-99-9
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