Howard Barker

Biography of Howard Barker

Howard E. Barker (born 28 June 1946) is a British playwright.

Barker has coined the term "Theatre of Catastrophe" to describe his work. His plays often explore violence, sexuality, the desire for power, and human motivation.

Rejecting the widespread notion that an audience should share a single response to the events onstage, Barker works to fragment response, forcing each viewer to wrestle with the play alone. "We must overcome the urge to do things in unison" he writes. "To chant together, to hum banal tunes together, is not collectivity." Where other playwrights might clarify a scene, Barker seeks to render it more complex, ambiguous, and unstable.

Opposing the predominance of comedy in the contemporary culture, which unifies us through the banality of a shared response, he argues for the rebirth of a tragic theatre, which will force us to recognize our differences. Only through a tragic renaissance, Barker argues, will beauty and poetry return to the stage. "Tragedy liberates language from banality" he asserts. "It returns poetry to speech."

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