Authors: David Edgar

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English playwright

Author Works


Two Kinds of Angel, pr. 1970 (one act)

A Truer Shade of Blue, pr. 1970 (one act)

Still Life: Man in Bed, pr. 1970

Acid, pr. 1971 (one act)

The National Interest, pr. 1971

Conversation in Paradise, pr. 1971 (one act)

Tedderella, pr. 1971 (one act)

Bloody Rosa, pr. 1971

The Rupert Show, pr. 1972 (one act)

State of Emergency, pr. 1972 (one act)

Road to Hanoi, pr. 1972 (one act)

The End, pr. 1972

Excuses Excuses, pr. 1972

Rent: Or, Caught in the Act, pr. 1972

England’s Ireland, pr. 1972 (with others)

Not with a Bang but a Whimper, pr. 1972

Death Story, pr. 1972

A Fart for Europe, pr. 1973 (with Howard Brenton)

Chamberlains, pr. 1973 (section of Up Spaghetti Junction)

Gangsters, pr. 1973 (one act)

Baby Love, pr. 1973 (one act)

Liberated Zone, pr. 1973 (one act)

The Eagle Has Landed, pr. 1973 (one act)

The Case of the Workers’ Plane, pr. 1973, revised pr. 1975 (as Concorde Cabaret)

Dick Deterred, pr., pb. 1974

The Dunkirk Spirit, pr. 1974

Man Only Dines, pr. 1974

The All-Singing All-Talking Golden Oldie Rock Revival Ho Chi Minh Peace Love and Revolution Show, pr. 1974

O Fair Jerusalem, pr. 1975

The National Theatre, pr. 1975 (one act)

Summer Sports, pr. 1975, expanded pr. 1976 (as Blood Sports)

Events Following the Closure of a Motorcycle Factory, pr. 1976

Saigon Rose, pr. 1976

Destiny, pr., pb. 1976

Ball Boys, pr. 1977 (originally part of Blood Sports)

Wreckers, pr., pb. 1977

Our Own People, pr. 1977

The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs, pr. 1978

Mary Barnes, pr. 1978

Teendreams, pr., pb. 1979 (with Susan Todd)

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, pr. 1980 (adaptation of Charles Dickens’s novel)

Maydays, pr., pb. 1983

Entertaining Strangers, pr., pb. 1985

Plays: One, pb. 1987

That Summer, pr. 1987

Heartlanders, pr., pb. 1989 (with Stephen Bill and Anne Devlin)

Plays: Two, pb. 1990

The Shape of the Table, pr., pb. 1990

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, pr. 1991 (adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel)

Pentecost, pr. 1994

Albert Speer, pr., pb. 2000

The Prisoner’s Dilemma, pr., pb., 2001


Lady Jane, 1986 (with Chris Bryant)


The Eagle Has Landed, 1973

Sanctuary, 1973 (adaptation of his play Gangsters)

I Know What I Meant, 1974

Baby Love, 1974 (adaptation of his play)

Concorde Cabaret, 1975 (adaptation of his play)

Censors, 1975 (with Robert Muller and Hugh Whitemore)

The Midas Connection, 1975

Destiny, 1978 (adaptation of his play)

The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs, 1982 (adaptation of his play)

Vote for Them, 1989 (with Neil Grant)

Buying a Landslide, 1992

Citizen Locke, 1994

Radio Plays:

The Owners, 1974

Bad Buy, 1975

Hero or Villain, 1976

Do Something–Somebody, 1977

Ecclesiastes, 1977

Destiny, 1979 (adaptation of his play)

Saigon Rose, 1979

Maydays, 1987 (adaptation of his play)

A Movie Starring Me, 1991

The Shape of the Table, 1992 (adaptation of his play)

That Summer, 1993 (adaptation of his play)

Mary Barnes, 1995 (adaptation of his play)


The Second Time as Farce: Reflections on the Drama of Mean Times, 1988


Born in Birmingham, England, to a theatrical family in 1948, David Edgar has spent most of his life in the dramatic world. He saw his first play, Beauty and the Beast, when he was four and wrote “The Life and Times of William Shakespeare” when he was ten. At the Oundle School, he was active in the theater as actor, designer, and director; he also edited the school’s poetry magazine. At Manchester University he studied drama, wrote and directed “The Author” for a student dramatic group, edited the student newspaper, and was active in politics, serving as chair of the Socialist Society. After graduation in 1969, he was employed for three years as a reporter for the Bradford Telegraph and Argus.{$I[A]Edgar, David}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Edgar, David}{$I[tim]1948;Edgar, David}

While in Bradford, he met Chris Parr, a student at Bradford University, who commissioned Edgar’s first play, Two Kinds of Angel, and was active in the theater. Edgar wrote eighteen plays that were produced, four of which were agitprop pieces for the General Will company created by Bradford students, and acted in a variety of roles in Bradford and Edinburgh. His success led him to become a full-time writer, and with other young playwrights, including David Hare, he helped write England’s Ireland. After academic stints at Leeds Polytechnic, where he had a fellowship, and Birmingham University, where he taught playwriting, he cofounded in 1975 the Theatre Writers’ Union. The following year Destiny, an anti-fascist play, was staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company and won the John Whiting Award. This success was followed by other leftist plays, including Our Own People, The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs, Mary Barnes, and Teendreams, the last focusing on the role of women in politics. His essay “Ten Years of Political Theatre, 1968-1978” became the definitive description of those years in the British theater. In 1979 he spent a year in the United States on a Bicentennial Fellowship and married Eve Brook, a university lecturer.

During the 1980’s he joined the Labour Party, served as literary adviser to the Royal Shakespeare Society, wrote a screenplay (Lady Jane), received an honorary M.A. from Bradford University, founded England’s first master’s degree course in playwriting at Birmingham University, published a collection of political and theater journalism, The Second Time as Farce, and continued to write plays, many of which concerned Thatcherism in Great Britain. His adaptation of Charles Dickens’s 1838-1839 work Nicholas Nickleby won an award from the Society of West End Theatres and then a Tony Award when it was staged in New York. Maydays, perhaps his most outstanding political drama, won an award for the best play of 1983. Other plays include Entertaining Strangers, originally a community play for Dorchester, which was revised for production at the National Theatre, That Summer, Heartlanders, and Vote for Them, the last for BBC Television.

His theatrical achievements were recognized in the 1990’s, when he was awarded an honorary fellowship at Birmingham Polytechnic and elected chair of the Theatre Writers’ Union (1991), was appointed honorary professor in the school for performance studies at Birmingham University (1992), and received an honorary doctorate from Surrey University. His The Shape of the Table marked a change in subject matter from the politics of England to those of Eastern Europe. The Shape of the Table concerns the 1989 “revolution” in Romania, where the play premiered in December, 1991. Pentecost, which is also set in an Eastern European country (unnamed), pursues the question as to the direction post-Communist countries will follow. The play contains Edgar’s most prolific use of language, stressing diversity by using several different languages. In Buying a Landslide Edgar switches his focus to the United States, particularly to the Republican Party, which he sees as characterized by phobia and prejudice. Edgar has continued to focus on politics in the twenty-first century, with Albert Speer and The Prisoner’s Dilemma. As his career has progressed, his political orientation has shifted, with some disillusion, from activist to observer.

BibliographyBorrega, Art. “David Edgar.” In British Playwrights, 1956-1995. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. Overview of Edgar’s plays.Davies, Andrew. Other Theatres: The Development of Alternative and Experimental Theatre in Britain. New York: Macmillan, 1987. Discusses Edgar’s contributions and compares him to his contemporaries.Kalson, Albert. “From Agitprop to SRO: The Political Drama of David Edgar.” In Cultural Power/Cultural Literacy, edited by Bonnie Braendlin. Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1991. Traces Edgar’s development from his early plays to commercial success.Painter, Susan. Edgar: The Playwright. London: Methuen, 1996. Examines most of Edgar’s plays, grouping them into categories. Includes chronology and extensive bibliography. Indispensable.
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