The Caryl Churchill Theatre – named in tribute to the feminist playwright – has been broken in this summer with a series of plays from the Drama and Theatre department.
But who is Caryl Churchill? Considered by many to be one of the foremost British playwrights alive today, Churchill’s work spans six decades with influences of Brecht and Artaud’s ‘Theatre of Cruelty’. Her most recent play, Love and Information, was held at the Royal Court theatre last autumn.
Churchill was born in London in 1938, though moved to Montreal, Canada for much of her childhood. She returned to England in 1960 to study English literature at Oxford University where she began writing for student theatre. Churchill later moved into radio dramas and television plays at the BBC before dedicating herself to stage plays and gaining popular acclaim for Cloud Nine in 1979.
While exploring gender, sexuality, and power politics, Churchill’s arguably most famous play Top Girls (1982) charts the loss of a woman’s humanity in her single-minded pursuit of power. The playwright herself refuses to discuss her works, claiming that ‘the plays speak for themselves’. However, she has been known to hold often controversial views, with her pro-Palestine play Seven Jewish Children (2009) being accused of anti-Semitism, a claim denied by the Royal Court. Her 2006 play Drunk Enough To Say I Love You attacked the power-play of British and American foreign policy in a sexualised depiction of modern politics that gained mixed but impassioned reviews.
As a key female playwright in an often male-dominated sphere, Caryl Churchill seems a fitting choice for the Royal Holloway, with its long history of women’s education. Professor Dan Rebellato, Head of the Drama and Theatre Department, said that naming the theatre after Caryl Churchill is “a great honour for the College and just recognition of her restless theatrical creativity”.
The £3m building, designed by architects Foster Wilson, connects to Sutherland House in the university’s drama department and replaces a smaller studio built in 1981. The theatre seats 175 audience members with a welcome foyer, rehearsal and dressing rooms, workshop areas, and separate teaching spaces. Its long windows and warm brickwork interior create a bright, versatile space.
Article: Rachel Ivens
Photography: forumtheatre.files.wordpress.com, thestage.co.uk