John Roman Baker

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John Roman Baker
John Roman Baker2008.jpg
Born England
Occupation Poet, playwright, novelist
Nationality British

John Roman Baker is a British poet, playwright and novelist. His work is characterised by a focus on contemporary issues presented from a homosexual point of view.

Theatre[edit]

His first play 'Limitations' launched the first season of the Gay Sweatshop Theatre company.[1] In 1989, his play 'Crying Celibate Tears' was presented at the Sussex Aids Centre[2]) within the context of the Brighton Festival. This 'festival within a festival' staged at the Sussex Aids Centre also included work by Philip Core, Peter Burton and Neil Bartlett. 'Crying Celibate Tears' received critical acclaim from the Brighton press, The Guardian and Plays and Players and was the launching pad for Aids Positive Underground Theatre, the company founded by John Roman Baker as a positive cultural response.

Performed plays include:[3]

  • Crying Celibate Tears, 1989
  • The Ice Pick, 1990
  • Freedom to Party, 1991
  • The Crying Celibate Tears Trilogy, 1992[4]
  • Easy, 1993[5]
  • In One Take, 1994
  • The Last Century of Desire, 1995
  • Limitations, 1975
  • QueerBashed, 1995
  • Russian Roulette; 1998
  • The Pornographic Wall; 1998
  • Heroes, 1999
  • The Prostitution Plays, 2000
  • The Club Beautiful, 2001
  • Sexually Speaking 1+1, 2001
  • The War Fuck, 2002
  • East Side Skin, 2003[6]
  • Things Happen, 2004
  • Romophobia, 2005
  • Prisoners of Sex, 2006
  • Touched, 2008

Adapted work by other writers:

Unperformed plays include:

  • Gala, 1990
  • Ibsen’s Ghosts, 2004

His work has been produced in many countries. From 1990–1996 the Brighton and Edinburgh Festivals often saw the first performances of his new plays. In 1990, his play The Ice Pick won the "Zap" Award for best theatre at the Brighton Festival jointly with the Satirikon theatre of Moscow.[7] He was the first dramatist to adapt the work of American artist David Wojnarowicz for the stage. 'Close to the Knives' was performed at the 1993 Brighton Festival[8] with the role of David Wojnarowicz played by actor Simon Merrells. In 1994 the success in Edinburgh of 'In One Take'[9] led to performances at Teatri di Vita,[10] Bologna, Italy. Since then, his work has continued to be popular in Italy and has been seen in Firenze, Modena, Forlí, L'Aquila, Reggio Emilia, Roma[11] and Milano.[12][13] His most popular work 'The Ice Pick' has been staged on multiple occasions in the UK and Italy as well as in the US at the Celebration Theatre, Los Angeles in 1993.[14]

He moved to Amsterdam, the Netherlands in 1997, where he continued the work of Aputheatre until 2008. During this period the focus of his work was mainly focused on the personal and social effects of pan-European migration following the collapse of communism.

In 1999 he updated and reworked 'The Ice Pick' for 2 characters under the title 'Heroes'. 'Heroes' was toured by Aputheatre around the Netherlands before being performed in Warsaw as part of the 1st Polish Gay Pride festival. 'The Prostitution Plays' was premiered for Warsaw Gay Pride in 2000 and in 2001 his play 'Sexually Speaking 1+1' was presented in Kiev, Ukraine.

Following its Amsterdam premiere, his play 'Prisoners of Sex' was translated into Italian by Antonio Serrano as 'Prigionieri del Sesso' and has been performed in Milan and Rome.[15][16][17]

Fiction[edit]

Published works include:

  • 'The Dark Antagonist', Unicorn Bookshop, Brighton, 1973.[18] An unusual, mystical novel of a sexually repressed young man who encounters angelic forces.
  • 'No Fixed Ground', Wilkinson House, London, 2011.[19] A vivid, hallucinatory novel that explores a young man's experience of friendship, sex and obsession amid the sexual liberation of mid-1970s England.
  • 'The Sea and the City', Wilkinson House, London, 2012.[20] Rich in symbolic imagery THE SEA AND THE CITY follows a young man's quest for salvation in a parallel reality.
  • 'The Paris Syndrome', Wilkinson House, London, 2012.[21] A dark exploration of illicit desire, madness and paternal responsibility.
  • 'The Vicious Age', Wilkinson House, London, 2014.[22] Set in Amsterdam, The Vicious Age explores the painful realities of life in a city that has become more materialistic and vicious in its constant need to renew itself.
  • 'Brighton Darkness', Wilkinson House, London, 2015.[23] Brighton Darkness is a collection of 17 stories that mostly relate to the city of Brighton & Hove. The stories span the decades from the 1950s to the present day and explore the many contradictions and quirks that define the city’s unique character. Gay life in the city runs as a theme through many of the stories, while the author’s experiences of other cities, Amsterdam, Paris and New York add a global context to the book. Another recurrent theme is that of return.
  • 'Nick & Greg', Wilkinson House, London, 2016.[24] Part One of the Nick & Greg Books, introducing the characters Nick and Greg: two gay teens growing up in 1950s Brighton.
  • 'Time of Obsessions', Wilkinson House, London, 2017. Part Two of the Nick & Greg Books, focuses on Greg's life after he leaves home and attempts to find his place first in Brighton and then in London. Set in the early sixties and featuring the iconic Chelsea LGBT clubs Le Gigolo and Gateways Club.
  • 'Nick's House', Wilkinson House, London, 2018. Part Three of the Nick & Greg Books. Nick and Greg, reunited in Brigton in the late 1960s defy convention and live by their own subversive sexual rules.

Personal life[edit]

John Roman Baker spent his childhood and much of his adolescence in Brighton, England. At the age of 19 he moved to Paris, where for several years he worked at the British Institute. His poetry was encouraged by the then director of the British Institute, Francis Scarfe. Later, in 1974 a volume of his poetry "Poèmes à Tristan" was published in French by Gérard Oberlé.[25] He has always considered himself foremost a poet and a vein of poetry continues in his plays.

In 1970 he moved from Paris back to Brighton. His poetic novel 'The Dark Antagonist' was published by the Unicorn Bookshop, Brighton in 1973.[26]

Unwelcome notoriety was achieved when in 1976 he appeared with Tony Whitehead (later to become the first chairperson of the Terence Higgins Trust[27]) in a Southern Television program[28] about Gay Rights. They were pictured together kissing as one of them met the other off a train at Brighton station. As a result of this, Whitehead was immediately fired by his employer British Home Stores. A national outcry galvanised the gay rights movement led by CHE (The Campaign for Homosexual Equality) and GLF (Gay Liberation Front).

In 1997 he left Brighton for Amsterdam, where he was given the freedom to create and present new work at the theatre in the former COC Amsterdam building on Rozenstraat until its closure in 2007.

In 2014 he returned to England and now lives and works again in Brighton concentrating on fiction which along with poetry has been paramount all through his life.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gay Sweatshop Archived 29 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine.; Gay Knitting circle; retrieved on 22 November 2007
  2. ^ Gay Brighton and Hove Services Archived 28 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Playwright's Database; retrieved on 22 November 2007
  4. ^ Brighton Ourstory; retrieved on 22 November 2007
  5. ^ The Independent
  6. ^ Film: East Side Skin (2003);
  7. ^ Aputheatre.com Punter Magazine Review June/July 1990
  8. ^ Poster: Close to the Knives Archived 5 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine.;
  9. ^ Pulse Magazine; retrieved on 22 May 2009
  10. ^ Teatri di Vita; retrieved on 22 May 2009
  11. ^ Gay.it review;
  12. ^ Queerblog.it;
  13. ^ Gay.tv;
  14. ^ Online Archive of California; retrieved on 22 May 2009
  15. ^ Gay.it review;
  16. ^ Queerblog.it;
  17. ^ Gay.tv;
  18. ^ Catalogue #2 Homophile Studies;
  19. ^ Wilkinson House;
  20. ^ Wilkinson House;
  21. ^ Wilkinson House;
  22. ^ Wilkinson House;
  23. ^ Wilkinson House;
  24. ^ Wilkinson House;
  25. ^ Bibliothèque nationale de France; retrieved on 16 January 2017
  26. ^ The Male Homosexual in Literature: a bibliography, Ian Young, Scarecrow Press Inc. Metuchen, N. J. (1975)
  27. ^ THT: About Us Archived 24 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine.; retrieved on 22 November 2007
  28. ^ Southern Report: Coming Out (Feb 1976);