• Playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker grew up in the Basque country. She was Resident Writer for 'Shared Experience' (1983) and the Royal Court Theatre (1984-5).
• She is best known for her play Our Country's Good (1988), based on the novel The Playmaker by Thomas Keneally. First performed at the Royal Court in 1988, it was awarded the Laurence Olivier/BBC Award for Best New Play.
• Timberlake Wertenbaker's most recent play, Galileo's Daughter, was performed in Bath in 2004 ,by the Peter Hall Company.
• In most of Timberlake Wertenbaker's plays there are two competing forces: a generous utopian impulse and a strong satirical drive.
• The word 'hope' makes an appearance in virtually all Wertenbaker's plays, and it is this quality that she admires so much in Sophocles in whom she also finds 'tremendous despair'.
• Her least well-received play, The Break of Day (1995), is also the one which most fully integrates the satirical and the utopian.
• Wertenbaker's theatrical vision is in several respects at odds with the prevailing trends in post-WWII British drama. Perhaps because she is an American who was raised in the French Basque country and has lived extensively in Greece, she is not constrained by the longstanding social realist traditions of her adoptive country.
• The favoured subject matter of social realism is contemporary life and the secular world. In contrast, Wertenbaker makes wide use of mythology, and of the ten plays in her collected works only three are set exclusively in the present.
• Her feminist interest in non-conforming women finds expression in her plays based in myth or fairytale: The Love of the Nightingale (1989), Dianeira and The Ash Girl. In the later, a new version of Cinderella, retains the happy ending of the original but also shows some sympathy for Cinderella's stepmother and half-sisters, who are the victims of an idealised femininity.
• Even though her protagonists are often English, her plays are also peopled by Algerians, Romanians, Greeks, Turks, Macedonians, Somalians, Bosnians, Indians, Americans, Sri Lankans.
Class issues in Post-1945 Drama
• Class is one of the most prevalent themes in Post-1945 drama, due in part to the influence of playwrights focusing on the American Dream of social and financial betterment, such as Arthur Miller.
• Key works include: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Williams, The Homecoming by Pinter and Death of a Salesman and The Price by Miller.
• Class is often explored together with what effects it has on relationships. For example in Death of a Salesman, where Willy neglects to spend time with his family in favour of working, which results in the irreparable deterioration of his relationship with them.
• The trend of constantly pursuing more material wealth has been attributed to a particular clause in the American Bill of Rights, which states the individual’s right to the “pursuit of happiness”. This suggests a lifestyle driven by the pursuit of greater and greater (financial) gain, rather than simply the attainment of contentment.
• As a result, Miller for example reflects characters who have been the victims of a relentless pressure to self-improve, such as Walter in The Price.
• A major influence on the theme of class comes from Dickens. Although not a playwright himself, there are evident parallels between his writing and modern drama.
• For example his key work Hard Times focuses on ideas such as estrangement, rotten values and unhappiness in the context of money-centric values. These concepts are all explored extensively by Pinter in The Homecoming, a work centred on a family left behind in a society which has isolated them by its aggressive, industrious nature.
• A notable characteristic in works dealing with class is the use of names to reflect a character’s qualities. Examples include “Gradgrind” from Hard Times, “Solomon” from The Price and “Big Daddy” in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.