David Pownall obituary | Stage


David Pownall, a playwright and novelist who died at the age of 84, was unfashionable and was hailed by critics and major British theater companies, although several of his plays were performed by the National Theatre. It was performed by both the Royal Shakespeare Company. He is a highly intelligent, imaginative and idiosyncratic writer who greatly encourages others.

His most famous play is The Master Class (1983), not to be confused with Terrence McNally’s 1995 play of the same name. Timothy West, who played Stalin, issued the infamous decree in 1948 requiring the Soviet public to “deem appropriate” music.

The original production, which moved from Leicester Haymarket to the West End’s Old Vic and Wyndham, featured Peter Kelly as Prokofiev and Shostakovich, as well as West, who West always said was his favorite role. and David Bamber also starred. , an actor playing the piano. The play has been translated into more than 20 of his languages ​​and is continuously performed around the world.

Besides being an imaginative writer, David Pownall was a great encouragement to others. Photo: Cathy DeWitt/Alamy

Many of the themes of Pownall’s early work were defined during his work in the Anglo-American copper mines of Zambia in the 1960s. Writing at night, he produced many plays with the country’s thriving theater scene. His novels inspired by this period, such as The Raining Tree War (1974), were comic satires like Evelyn Waugh. Their story originated, as playwright Torben Betts said, “where modern technology rubbed anxious shoulders with tribal magic.”

Back in the UK, he remained busy with theater, and in 1975 co-founded Paynes Plow’s new playwright company with director John Adams over a pint of Paines Bitter at Pub Plow in Bedford. The setup was later supported by the Arts Council.

Pownall and Adams have developed influential relationships with such talented actors as Stephen Boxer, Harriet Walter, Fiona Victory and Andrew Scott, and talented writers such as Sarah Kane, Stephen Jeffries, Mike Bartlett and Simon Stephens. I was. .

Pownall himself was a big, bear-like, always friendly and open-minded man who went on to write 60 stage plays, 15 novels and many short stories. He also wrote his over 100 radio programs for the BBC.

Born in Liverpool, David was the first of two sons to avid amateur ballroom dancers Elsie (née Russell) and Jack Pownall. Jack was a professional soldier who died in the 1943 World War II campaign in Tunisia. As a result, when he was eleven years old, David was awarded a scholarship to Wandsworth College, Long Road in Sutton, Hampshire. He is a boy who lost his parents. Having boarded there from 1949 to 1956, he hated the place.

Publicity material for the Old Vic masterclass by David Pownall
Publicity material for the Old Vic masterclass by David Pownall

After graduating in history from Keele University in Staffordshire in 1960, Pownall took a job as a personnel officer at the Ford Motor Company in Dagenham, Essex. She married her teacher, Glennis Jones, the following year. The couple moved to Zambia for Pownall to do similar work in a copper mine, and in 1969 he returned laden with materials and bloated notebooks. He was appointed resident playwright at the Century Theater, Coalville, Leicestershire (1970-72), then the Dukes of Lancaster (1972-75), at the Playhouse he I wrote a play for He plays, musicals, plays.

His novels The Raining Tree War and African Horse (1975) prompted critical comparisons to Tom Sharpe’s South African satire, while God Perkins (1977) about tour companies in the North West of England, by Auberon Waugh: was explained as De Furth”. My own first intriguing encounter with Pownall’s play is Crate on Barrels (1974), a blistering philosophical monologue that asserts intellectual precedents in Diogenes, Socrates, and God. And Motocar (1977), a magical summary of Rhodesian history caused by political prisoners awaiting interrogation, had me on my guard.

This vital interest never reached a convincing focus due to the sporadic and eclectic nature of Pownall’s talent and progress. published a 1984 typescript and featured the party’s political broadcasts on behalf of the Plantagenets, a theatrical meditation on the relationship between history and truth) were both welcomed by the public. It’s not. Cottesloe (now Dorfman) Auditorium at the National in 1978.

Pownall has never worked out a marketing strategy. This was a sign of his integrity, but a negative career strategy. “He wrote,” Betts said. If the work is of some value to others, all the more so. His stage and subsequent radio show Beef (1981), which dealt with Irish history set in a slaughterhouse, was the subject of the first public review by the Meat Marketing Commission. They raved about it.

After a masterclass, his major stage plays included a very well-crafted adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1986), which began in Cambridge art and starred Peter Sallis and Pauline Yates. and ended with the Old Vic. parent Bennett. In Stratford-upon-his-Avon’s strangely compelling Elgar’s Rondo for his Avon’s RSC (1983), the great Alec-his McCohen wears a walrus mustache and wears red satin pajamas, his I am in a mental crisis because of the bad reception of my 2nd Symphony. Getting the Picture (1998) at the Lyric Theater in Belfast is an 1845 historical retelling of former U.S. President Andrew Jackson in Nashville against the intervention of current Ulster activists calling for the repeal of the Acts of Union in Ireland. I sold photography.

None of this was the work of a man looking down. His first historical novel, The White Cutter (1988), produced his father-son story about the craft of the great stonemasons of the Middle Ages, and Umberto his Eco’s The Name of the Rose. compared, but not at a disadvantage. One of his most original plays, Music to Murder By (1976), is a darkly demonic tale between Renaissance composer Carlo his Gesualdo and the desperate Peter his Warlock. I imagine a collaboration. As Peter Ackroyd said, “Pownall treats fiction itself as a sort of brilliant lie, sacred and malevolent at the same time.”

Pownall’s marriage to Glennies ended in divorce in 1971. From 1972 until his mid-80s, he was in a relationship with American actor Mary Ellen Rey. Mary Ellen Ray Paynes was a longtime collaborator and muse of her plow and had her son Tom. Pownall married photographer Alex in 1993. He married Sutton and lives with his sons Max, Tom, two daughters-in-law Dom and Georgie, grandson Zaiden, and brother Barry. His grandson Rafi also lost him.

Playwright and novelist, David Pownall, born May 19, 1938. Died November 21, 2022



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