Edward Bond is a highly acclaimed, yet also highly controversial, England playwright, screenwriter, theorist, and theatre director. With a catalog of around 50 plays to his name, his work in the 1950s changed the face of British theatre forever.
Bond was born in London in 1934 and left school with little education. He educated himself in literature and theatre and, following his national service in the British Army, started writing. In 1958, he was invited to join the newly formed writer’s group at the Royal Court Theatre in London. His first play, The Pope’s Wedding was greeted with mixed reviews, but his second play, Saved (1965), helped to revolutionize British theatre forever. Focusing on a working-class council estate in London, the play was initially denied a license by the Lord Chamberlain and was clandestinely performed privately to large audiences. The decision of the Lord Chamberlain to prosecute all those involved caused outrage and was a pivotal moment in the lead up to the abolition of censorship in the 1968 Theatres Act. His surrealist play, Early Morning (1967), further fueled the censorship debate with its depiction of Queen Victoria and Florence Nightingale as a lesbian couple.
In 1971, Bond wrote Lear, in response to Shakespeare’s King Lear. The play received critical acclaim from the critics and established Bond as a major contemporary playwright both in the UK and abroad. Bond cemented his provocative reputation with his 1974 translation of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening. The production was the first, since the abolition of the censor, to restore the most controversial scenes of the play.
By the mid-1970s, Bon parted ways with the Royal Court and formed a new partnership with Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). By the 1980s, his plays were increasingly influenced by the Conservative government and the social upheaval of the decade, and he decided to direct his own plays more and more. However, during this period, Bond garnered a reputation for being an authoritarian, uncompromising, and “difficult” author and director. Peter Hall at the National Theatre refused to allow Bond to direct his play Human Canon during the mid-1980s and his relationship with the RSC was left in tatters. Bond continued to write, but refused to allow institutional theatres to stage his work as he felt they did not understand his intentions to modernize British theatre. From the mid-1990s onwards, he worked with regional companies in Birmingham and Cambridge.
Although Bond is acknowledged as one of the most successful English playwrights of the twentieth century and his plays are frequently revived, his name and previous conflicts continue to inspire controversy.
More about Edward Bond