Since the late 1970s, more than 200 biographical plays about famous artists (composers, fine artists, poets, actors etc.) were written and staged in the United Kingdom. The book analyses the range of these plays, arguing that the dramatists often place the main artist character(s) in an adverse situation, inward (e.g., mental illness) or outward (a personal enemy, or an anonymous power, such as war). Against the background of such adverse forces, the artist characters tend come across as flawed human beings. At the same time, most plays take care to provide good insights into the artists’ genius and their artistic integrity in the face of the adversity. The book also addresses the question why there have been so many biographical plays about famous artists over the past twenty-five years, providing answers in the context of theatre history and developments across academic disciplines and society as a whole.
Daniel Meyer-Dinkgrafe is lecturer at the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies University of Wales Aberystwyth