Born in London on September 3, 1938, Caryl Churchill grew
up in England and Canada. In 1960, she received a BA in English
from Oxford University where she wrote three plays: Downstairs,
You've No Need to be Frightened, and Having a Wonderful
Time. After graduation, she began to write radio plays for
the BBC including The Ants (1962), Not, Not, Not, Not
Enough Oxygen (1971), and Schreber's Nervous Illness
(1972). This genre forced Churchill to develop a certain economy
of style which would serve her well in her later work for the
stage, but it also freed her from the limitations of the stage,
allowing, for example, the freedom to write very short scenes
or make great leaps in time and space.
In 1974, Churchill began her transition to the stage, serving
as resident dramatist at the Royal Court Theatre from 1974-75.
During the 1970's and 1980's, she also collaborated with theatre
companies such as Joint Stock and Monstrous Regiment, both of
which utilized an extended workshop period in their development
of new plays and both of which are generally considered to have
had a deep impact on Churchill's development as a playwright.
She would later write, "This was a new way of working ...
[I felt] stimulated by the discovery of shared ideas and the
enormous energy and feeling of possibilities." While working
with Joint Stock and Monstrous Regiment, Churchill wrote a number
of successful plays including Light Shining on Buckinghamshire
(1976), Vinegar Tom (1976), Cloud Nine (1979),
and A Mouthful of Birds (1986).
Even after striking out on her own, Churchill continued to
utilize an improvisational workshop setting in the development
of some of her plays. Mad Forest: A Play from Romania
(1990) was written after Churchill, the director and a group
of student actors from London's Central School went to Romania
to work with acting students there and find out more about the
events surrounding the fall of Ceausescu. What finally emerged
from this process was a play that revealed the dreadful damage
done to people's lives by years of repression and the painful
difficulties of lasting change.
As Churchill's remarkable career continues to develop, her
plays seem to be growing more and more sparse and less and less
inhibited by realism. In The Skriker (1994), she utilizes
an associative dream logic which some critics found to be nonsensicle.
The play, a visionary exploration of modern urban life, follows
the Skriker, a kind of northern goblin, in its search for love
and revenge as it pursues two young women to London, changing
its shape at every new encounter.
Churchill married David Harter in 1961 and has three sons.
Her awards include three Obie Award (1982, 1983 & 1988) and
a Society of West End Theatre Award (1988).
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