Martin Crimp

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Martin Crimp
Martin Crimp.jpg
Crimp (centre) at the Théâtre des Abbesses, Paris
Martin Andrew Crimp

(1956-02-14) 14 February 1956 (age 67)
Dartford, Kent, England

Martin Andrew Crimp (born 14 February 1956 in Dartford, Kent) is a British playwright.

Early life and career[edit]

The son of John Crimp, a British Rail signalling engineer, and his wife Jennie, Crimp's family moved in 1960 to Streatham where he attended a local primary school before winning a scholarship to Dulwich College. But when his father was transferred to York, he went to the nearby Pocklington School, where he showed an aptitude for languages, music, English literature, and theatre. He read English at St Catharine's College, Cambridge (1975–78), where his first play Clang was staged by fellow student Roger Michell.[1] Before establishing himself as a playwright, he put together An Anatomy, a collection of short stories, and also wrote a novel Still Early Days. These remain unpublished.

His first six plays were performed at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond. As he told Marsha Hanlon in an interview for the Orange Tree appeal brochure in 1991: "When the Orange Tree ran a workshop for local writers [in September 1981], I was invited to take part. The carrot was the chance of a lunchtime production, so I wrote Living Remains and the Orange Tree staged it – my first-ever produced play! I was so excited that I didn't think about the space where it was performed [then a room above a pub], but now I realise that the Orange Tree's intimacy and simplicity provided an extra layer of excitement."

Seven of his plays, and his second Ionesco translation have also been presented at the Royal Court Theatre, London, where he became writer-in-residence in 1997.

Professional career[edit]


Crimp’s play Attempts on Her Life, which premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 1997, was, according to critic Aleks Sierz, the “event that secured his reputation as the most innovative, most exciting and most exportable playwright of his generation.” [Sierz, Aleks, Aleks, (2013) p.48][1] In this work, none of the lines is assigned to a particular character, nor does Crimp specify how many actors should perform the piece. In seventeen apparently disconnected scenes, groups of people give mutually contradictory descriptions of an absent protagonist, a woman talked of as if she were, variously, a terrorist, the daughter of grieving parents, an artist and a new car. This deliberately fragmented work challenges an audience to re-define its notion of what constitutes a "play" and might seem to question whether someone has any existence beyond the models we construct.

His other plays range from tragi-comic studies of suburban guilt and repression — Definitely the Bahamas (1987), Dealing with Clair (1989), The Country (2000) — via the satirical ‘entertainment’ In the Republic of Happiness (2012) — to powerful re-writings of Greek classics — Cruel & Tender (2004), The rest will be familiar to you from cinema (2013). This unusual variety has led Vicky Angelaki to write:

Crimp’s multifaceted theatre, rich in textual, visual and visceral nuances, moves beyond rigid groupings of drama types and genres. What makes Crimp’s work both challenging and fascinating is its dual and equal focus on the private and the public, the collective and the individual, the humorous and the dramatic, the spoken and the unspoken. [Angelaki, Vicky (2012), The Plays of Martin Crimp, Palgrave Macmillan, page1][2]

Crimp's work has successfully received numerous productions abroad. In Germany, he is considered to be "one of the most respected British playwrights" and it was reported in 2013 that there has been "more than 60 German-language productions of his work in the past two decades."[3]

In 2021, Crimp was recipient of Germany’s Nyssen-Bansemer theater prize in recognition of the importance of his body of work. [Süddeutsche Zeitung, 29 March 2021][4] Writing about the prize in Theater heute magazine, Till Briegleb praises the way that “With great authority, Crimp sketches the most diverse victims of a bourgeois society that wants to ignore all connections between their tranquil existence and the violence that makes it possible. From the murderer to the child, everyone who appears is unique, their life-lies and fears individual.”[4]

Martin Crimp is sometimes described as a practitioner of the "in-yer-face" school of contemporary British drama, although he rejects the label.[5]

In 2022, he performed his play Not one of these people, which gave voice to 299 different characters. Supported with a live deepfake video generator, imagined by Quebec director Christian Lapointe, the playwright accepted Lapointe’s invitation to perform as an actor on stage for the first time.[6]

Theatre translator[edit]

From 1997 onwards, Crimp has had a parallel career as theatre translator, making his first impact at the Royal Court Theatre with a translation of Ionesco’s The Chairs, a production that subsequently transferred to Broadway. His re-writings of Molière’s The Misanthrope (1996, revived 2009)[7] and Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac (2019/22) were both commercially and critically successful, the latter transferring from London’s West End to the Brooklyn Academy of Music.[8] These rewritings have led some critics to see them as new plays. Angelaki, for example, argues that "Crimp’s radical adaptations … depart substantially from the early versions of the texts that inspire them and as such belong to a discussion of Crimp’s playwriting canon, rather than of his translations or versions" [Angelaki, Vicky, Op. Cit. page 154][2]

Opera librettist[edit]

Scene from a 2018 performance of Written on Skin by Opera Philadelphia

In 2006, Crimp began a collaboration with composer George Benjamin that has led to the creation of three operas: Into the Little Hill (2006), Written on Skin (2012) and Lessons in Love and Violence (2018). Written on Skin in particular has garnered international acclaim since its premiere at the Festival d’Aix en Provence in 2012.[9]



  • Not One Of These People (Carrefour international de théâtre Théâtre La Bordée 2022 )
  • When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other: 12 Variations on Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, ("provoked" by Richardson's Pamela, National Theatre, Dorfman, 2019)[10]
  • Men Asleep (Deutsches Shauspielhaus 2018)
  • The Rest Will Be Familiar to You from Cinema (inspired by Euripides' Phoenician Women, Deutsches Shauspielhaus 2013)
  • In the Republic of Happiness (Royal Court Theatre 2012)[11]
  • Play House (Orange Tree 2012, revived with Definitely the Bahamas and directed by the author)
  • The City (Royal Court, Jerwood Theatre Downstairs 2008)
  • Fewer Emergencies (Royal Court, Theatre Upstairs 2005)[12]
  • Cruel and Tender (Young Vic 2004)
  • Advice to Iraqi women (Royal Court 2003)
  • Face to the Wall (Royal Court 2002)
  • The Country (Royal Court 2000, revived at the Tabard Theatre May 2008)
  • Attempts on Her Life (Royal Court 1997; National Theatre, Lyttelton, March 2007)
  • The Treatment (Royal Court 1993; revived Almeida Theatre 2017)
  • Getting Attention (Royal Court, Theatre Upstairs 1991)
  • No One Sees the Video (Royal Court, Theatre Upstairs 1990)
  • Play with Repeats (Orange Tree 1989)
  • Dealing with Clair (Orange Tree 1988)
  • Definitely the Bahamas, "a group of three plays for consecutive performance" also including A Kind of Arden and The Spanish Girls (Orange Tree 1987)
  • A Variety of Death-Defying Acts (Orange Tree 1985)
  • Four Attempted Acts (Orange Tree 1984)
  • Living Remains (Orange Tree lunchtime, 9–25 July 1982)


Opera libretti[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sierz, Aleks (2013). "The Theatre of Martin Crimp: Second Edition: Critical Companions Aleks Sierz Methurn Drama". Bloomsbury. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  2. ^ a b Angelaki, Vicky (2012). "Vicky Angelaki. The Plays of Martin Crimp: Making Theatre Strange. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2012". doi:10.1515/jcde-2015-0012. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  3. ^ Sierz, Aleks (2013). The Theatre of Martin Crimp (Second ed.). Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. pp. xii. ISBN 978-1472517012.
  4. ^ a b Briegleb, Till (2021). "Article "Satirist of Pain": Der Theaterverlag". Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  5. ^ Devine, Harriet (2006). "Looking Back: Playwrights at the Royal Court, 1956-2006 Faber". Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  6. ^ Brown, Mark (2022). "Not One of These People: a triumph of deep fakery? Yes, really". Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  7. ^ Sierz, Aleks (2009). "The Misanthrope, Comedy Theatre, reviews, The Arts Desk". Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  8. ^ Green, Jesse (2022). "Review: 'Cyrano De Bergerac' Now Noseless and Drunk on Words The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  9. ^ Machart, Renaud (2012). "The best opera written for twenty years?". www-lemonde-fr. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  10. ^ "When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other". National Theatre. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  11. ^ "In the Republic of Happiness". Royal Court. Retrieved 11 October 2022.
  12. ^ "The British Theatre Guide: Reviews - Fewer Emergencies (Royal Court)". 16 May 2008. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 11 October 2022.

External links[edit]