Simon Gray was born in 1936. He began his writing career with Colmain (1963), the first of five novels, all published by Faber. He is the author of many plays for TV and radio, also films, including the 1987 adaptation of J L Carr's A Month in the Country, and TV films including Running Late, After Pilkington (winner of the Prix Italia) and Emmy Award-winning Unnatural Pursuits. He wrote more than thirty stage plays, amongst them Butley and Otherwise Engaged (which both received Evening Standard Awards for Best Play), Close of Play, The Rear Column, Quartermaine's Terms, The Common Pursuit, Hidden Laughter, The Late Middle Classes (winner of the Barclay's Best Play Award), Japes, The Old Masters (his ninth play to be directed by Harold Pinter) and Little Nell, which premiered at the Theatre Royal Bath in 2007, directed by Peter Hall. Little Nell was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2006, and Missing Dates in 2008. In 1991 he was made BAFTA Writer of the Year. His acclaimed works of non-fiction are: An Unnatural Pursuit, How's That for Telling 'Em, Fat Lady?, Fat Chance, Enter a Fox, The Smoking Diaries, The Year of the Jouncer, The Last Cigarette and Coda. He was appointed CBE in the 2005 New Year's Honours for his services to Drama and Literature.
Simon Gray died in August 2008.
Now, Penelope and her chorus of wronged maids tell their side of the story in a new stage version by Margaret Atwood, adapted from her own wry, witty and wise novel.
The Penelopiad premiered with the Royal Shakespeare Company in association with Canada's National Arts Centre at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in July 2007.
'Superficially, it is a light comedy about a group of educated, often eccentric English characters in an academic backwater in the early sixties. But though the jokes are excellent, the piece cuts deep. There are Strindberg-like glimpses of wretchedly unhappy marriages and, as in Ibsen, a sense of chickens coming home to roost. But the primary impression here is of an English Chekhov. As in the plays of the Russian master, the characters talk a lot, but they rarely listen, still less understand, so they are often at cross-purposes. And like The Seagull, the long time scheme in Quartermaine's Terms - it spans several years - creates a poignant sense of transience and mortality.' Daily Telegraph
'Gray's selection of details and exchanges is immaculate: he achieves drama and mystery in mundane lives; the comedy is beautifully stated and even personal tragedies are underlined with running gags that ring with truthfulness. No false hothouse effect is necessary to make bare the bewilderment of spirit of his central figure, the grinning, forgetful and deeply kind staff lecturer, St John Quartermaine, an inarticulate character of awesome loneliness who rivals the tragic force of Willy Loman.' The Times
'A play that is at once full of doom and gloom and bristling with wry, even uproarious comedy. The mixture is so artfully balanced that we really don't know where the laughter ends and the tears begin: the playwright is in full possession of the Chekhovian territory where the tragedies and absurdities of life become one and the same.' New York Times