Joe Penhall

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Joe Penhall
Joe Penhall.jpg
Joe Penhall at the 2009 Venice Film Festival for the promotion of The Road
Born 1967
Occupation Playwright, screenwriter
Nationality British
Spouse Emily McLaughlin

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Joe Penhall (born 1967) is a British playwright and screenwriter from London, best known for his award-winning stage play Blue/Orange and the award-winning West End musical Sunny Afternoon.

Early life[edit]

Born in London, Penhall was raised in Australia.


Prior to becoming a playwright, Joe Penhall was a manager of a gourmet pizza restaurant, which, one night, was broken into by a youth gang. This incident proved to be the impetus for his first play "Wild Turkey," which was produced at the Old Red Lion Pub.[2]

Penhall's first major play Some Voices premiered at the Royal Court Theatre's upstairs playing space in London in 1994. It was very well-received, winning the John Whiting Award, and has since been played off-Broadway twice. In 2000 Penhall adapted the play for a film with the same name directed by Simon Cellan Jones, starring Daniel Craig and Kelly Macdonald, which premiered at the Cannes Directors' Fortnight.

Penhall returned to the Royal Court Theatre with his second full-length play Pale Horse, which also played in the Theatre Upstairs and featured Ray Winstone, who had starred in Some Voices. A dark play, Pale Horse tells the story of a bar keeper coming to terms with the sudden death of his wife.[3]

Penhall adapted Ian McEwan's novel Enduring Love in 2004 to film starring Rhys Ifans and Daniel Craig. That same year he also wrote the screenplay for BBC2's BAFTA nominated dramatisation of Jake Arnott's novel The Long Firm[4] starring Mark Strong.

In 2000 his play Blue/Orange began its run at the National Theatre, directed by Roger Michell and starring Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and Chiwetel Ejiofor. The play centres on two NHS doctors trying to deal with a sectioned young black schizophrenic patient; it was a huge success, winning Best New Play at the Evening Standard Awards, Laurence Olivier Awards, and at the Critics Circle. It transferred to the West End at the Duchess Theatre the following year. Penhall adapted this play in 2005 for TV with a new cast.

That same year Penhall wrote and directed The Undertaker, his first short film, starring Rhys Ifans and premiering at the London Film Festival.

His follow-up play Dumb Show was staged at the Royal Court Theatre in 2004, focusing on tabloid journalism. It was directed by Terry Johnson. Penhall has called this a 'small light play' as opposed to the 'huge dark play' Blue/Orange.

Landscape With Weapon, about the invention of a weapon of mass destruction, was first performed at the National Theatre in 2007, directed again by Roger Michell and starring Tom Hollander and Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Penhall spent six years working on The Last King of Scotland, even flying to Uganda and meeting Idi Amin's henchmen; however, he requested his name be removed from the film after other writers were brought on board.[5] Penhall adapted Cormac McCarthy's book The Road in 2009 for a film starring Viggo Mortensen; for this he received wide praise[citation needed]and was named by Variety Magazine as one of their Top Ten Screenwriters to watch.[citation needed]

In 2009 Penhall's detective drama Moses Jones, where he also served as executive producer, was shown on the BBC, winning a BAFTA for make up design and Best Screenplay at the Roma Film Festival in 2009.[6]

In 2011 Penhall returned to the theatre with two plays: Haunted Child, staged at the Royal Court Theatre with Sophie Okonedo, and Birthday, starring Stephen Mangan and directed by long-term collaborator Roger Michell. His first stage musical, Sunny Afternoon, with music and lyrics by Ray Davies premiered at the Hampstead Theatre in May 2014, before transferring to London's West End. The musical won four Laurence Olivier Awards in 2015 including Best New Musical.

Personal life[edit]

Penhall is married and lives in London; the couple have two sons together.[7]







  1. ^ "Penhall Editorial", Bush Green, 2010 
  2. ^ Boles, William (2011), The Argumentative Theatre of Joe Penhall, McFarland Press 
  3. ^ Boles, William (2011), The Argumentative Theatre of Joe Penhall, McFarland Press 
  4. ^ "The Long Firm", BBC, 2004 
  5. ^ Dawtrey, Adam (18 June 2008), "Screenwriters To Watch", Variety 
  6. ^ "Penhall on Moses Jones", The Times, London, 2011 
  7. ^ Lawson, Mark (29 November 2011), "Penhall Interview", The Guardian, London 
  8. ^ "Birthday", Royal Court Theatre, 2012 
  9. ^ "Haunted Child", Royal Court Theatre, 2011 
  10. ^ "Landscape With Weapon", National Theatre, 2007 
  11. ^ "Dumb Show", Royal Court Theatre, 2004 
  12. ^ "Blue/Orange", National Theatre, 2000 
  13. ^ "The Bullet", Donmar Warehouse, 1998 
  14. ^ "Love and Understanding", Bush Theatre, 1997 
  15. ^ "Pale Horse", Royal Court, 1995 
  16. ^ "Some Voices", Royal Court, 1995 
  17. ^ "The Road", Imdb, 2009 
  18. ^ "The Undertaker", Imdb, 2005 
  19. ^ "Enduring Love", Imdb, 2004 
  20. ^ "Some Voices", Imdb, 2000 
  21. ^ "Moses Jones", Imdb, 2009 
  22. ^ "Blue/Orange", Imdb, 2005 
  23. ^ "The Long Firm", Imdb, 2004 
  24. ^ "Go Back Out", Imdb, 1995 

External links[edit]