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Williamstown Theatre Festival

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Simon Gray | Complete(ish) Works

by Clare Drobot, Dramaturg.

Doing research for the program biography of Simon Gray I began to read more of his plays and novels. At the start of this production, I’m embarrassed to say, I had only a glancing familiarity with Mr. Gray’s works. In the course of compiling and writing I began to read several of his plays and memoirs. His writing made me laugh, cry, do double takes, and kept me thoroughly captivated. Below is an unofficial chronological list of his plays with a few interesting facts, I dug up in the research process.

Wise Child (1967)
The show starred Alec Guinness and was originally written as a teleplay. When it was deemed too controversial for the small screen, Gray adapted it for the stage.

Dutch Uncle (1969)
Partially based on serial killer John Christie.
The Idiot (adapted from Dostoyevsky in 1970)

Spoiled (1970)

Butley (1971)
The Last Simon Gray play that appeared on Broadway. The revival in 2006, directed by WTF Artistic Director Nicholas Martin, starred Nathan Lane in the title role. The original production starred long time friend Alan Bates and was directed by Harold Pinter.

Otherwise Engaged (1975)

Dog Days (1976)

Molly (1977)
An Adaptation of “Death of a Teddy Bear” a Teleplay that first aired in 1967.

The Rear Column (1978)
A historical play based on the rear column left behind in Yambuya during Henry Morgan Stanley’s 1886 expedition into Equatoria.

Close of Play (1979)

Stage Struck (1979)
A Hit Comic Thriller that also starred Alan Bates.

Quartermaine's Terms (1981)

The Common Pursuit (1984)
The play follows a group of Cambridge Classmates who begin a literary magazine during their undergraduate careers and investigates their artistic dreams and the evolutions of their lives over the ensuing years. Simon Gray wrote How's That for Telling 'em Fat Lady about the US production of the play.

Melon (later revised as The Holy Terror) 1987
Simon wrote about the US production of The Holy Terror in his Introduction to Four Plays (

Hidden Laughter (1990)

Cell Mates (1995)
The initial production was beleaguered by the departure of star Stephen Fry and resulted in another collection of Gray’s diaries, Fat Chance.

Life Support (1997)

Simply Disconnected (1996)
A sort of sequel to Otherwise Engaged

The Late Middle Classes (1999)
The play’s evolution (and subsequent troubles landing a London production) became the subject of a third set of diaries Enter a Fox, which is also subtitled “Further Adventures of a Paranoid.”

Japes (2000)
The show chronicles two brothers and their 30 plus years of sibling rivalry.

The Old Masters (2004)

Little Nell (2006)
The show focuses on the affair between Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan.

Gray also wrote teleplays, novels and a series of diaries. I highly recommend reading any of the three volumes of The Smoking Diaries. For more information on Simon Gray please visit his official website at:

[photo] courtesy of Victoria Gray. [pictured] Simon Gray

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