10 February 1968 |
Stamford, Lincolnshire, UK
Betts attended the University of Liverpool, where he read English Literature & English Language, and originally trained to become an actor, but later moved to playwriting. Betts stated that part of the reason for this transition was the difficulty he faced as an actor without an agent and that playwriting allowed him to "exercise all my instincts as an actor without actually having to live the life". In 1999 Alan Ayckbourn invited him to be the resident dramatist at Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre.
A Listening Heaven premiered there that year before a second production took place at the Edinburgh Royal Lyceum in 2001. The play was nominated as the TMA Best New play that year. During this period Betts was enjoying notable successes on the London fringe at the Battersea Arts Centre with plays like Incarcerator, a drama in rhyming couplets and The Biggleswades at the White Bear Theatre Club. Also in that year (2001) his play Clockwatching initiated a series of co-productions between The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond and The Stephen Joseph Theatre, producing theatre in the round.
Unusually for a modern playwright, Betts works in two very distinct styles: a darkly comic social realism, reminiscent of the plays of Ayckbourn or Mike Leigh, and a more tragic, poetic style of a kind associated with dramatists such as Howard Barker.
His brutal anti-capitalist satire The Unconquered, in a touring production by Scotland’s Stellar Quines Theatre Company, won the 2007 Best New Play award at the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland.
Critical reception for Betts's plays has been mostly very positive: The Daily Telegraph claims he has a "profound and highly original theatrical voice", while Liz Lochhead (the makar or national poet of Scotland) suggests he "is just about the most original and extraordinary writer of drama we have." Michael Billington in a Guardian review of Invincible stated that "Torben Betts should be a bigger name." 
His latest play Invincible opened at the Orange Tree Theatre in March 2014 and is the fourth of his plays to premiere at that theatre, following Clockwatching (2001), The Company Man (2010) and Muswell Hill (2012).
He has written the screenplay for the British independent feature film Downhill, which is scheduled for release in May 2014.
- Downhill (2014)
- A Listening Heaven (1999)
- Incarcerator (1999)
- Five Visions of the Faithful (2000)
- The Biggleswades (2001)
- Clockwatching (2001)
- The Last Days of Desire (2001, BBC Radio play)
- The Lunatic Queen (2005)
- The Unconquered (2007)
- The Error of their Ways (2007)
- The Swing of Things (2007)
- Lie of the Land (2008)
- The Company Man (2010)
- Muswell Hill (2012)
- Invincible (2014)
Publications (Oberon Books)
- Plays One (A Listening Heaven, Mummies and Daddies, Clockwatching), (2000)
- Plays Two (Incarcerator, Five Visions of the Faithful, Silence and Violence, The Biggleswades, The Last Days of Desire), (2001)
- Plays Three (The Optimist, The Swing of Things, The Company Man), (2008)
- The Lunatic Queen, 2005
- The Unconquered, 2007
- The Error of Their Ways, 2007
- Lie of the Land, 2008
- Muswell Hill, 2012
- Invincible, 2014
Awards and nominations
- Winner, Best New Play 2006/07 for The Unconquered, Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland
- Nominated, Edinburgh Fringe First Award 2008 for Lie of the Land
- Nominated, Best New Play 2001 for A Listening Heaven, TMA Awards
- Nominated/shortlisted, Verity Bargate Award 2000 for Mummies and Daddies
- Nominated, Best New Play at the Off West End Theatre Awards 2010 for The Company Man
- Nominated, Best New Play at the Off West End Theatre Awards 2012 for Muswell Hill
- "THE SWING OF THINGS (Programme note for the SJT production, September 2007)". Torben Betts. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- "IN CONVERSATION WITH TORBEN BETTS". Torben Betts. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- "Theatre: Clockwatching". Guardian. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- "Beauty forged in darkness". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- "Centuries apart - two dramas that put a bomb under the nuclear family". Telegraph. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- "Questions of Freedom, Set in Black and White". New York Times. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- "Rural idyll proves another lost Eden". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- "Soldiers play wins critics award". BBC. Retrieved 1 March 2013.