Playwright Edward Bond Dies at 89 | Playbill

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Obituaries Playwright Edward Bond Dies at 89

Mr. Bond was a prolific British playwright, penning more than 50 plays in addition to his work as a director and poet.

Edward Bond

Playwright Edward Bond died March 3 at the age of 89. A prolific writer and stalwart enemy of theatrical censorship, Mr. Bond was a controversial yet respected figure in the British dramatic arena, courting scandal throughout his career due to the visceral and often radical content within his work, while inspiring the following generation to create outside of the restrictions he had inherited from the previous generation. News of Bond's passing was reported by The New York Times.

Born to a working class family in 1934, Mr. Bond's memories of the London Blitz shaped many of his plays, with a tendency toward depicting violence and terror, as well as a keen eye toward social alienation as he had experienced during the children's evacuation. At 14, he witnessed a production of Macbeth that presented trauma in a way that resonated with his lived experience, and by 15 he had left formal schooling, working a series of odd jobs before entering national service for the British Army as he refined his writing style.

Beginning in 1962, Mr. Bond would be closely associated with London's Royal Court Theatre, for which he wrote numerous influential plays, including Saved, a play that would become his cause célèbre. 

Centering on South London's working class, and the social causes of violence, the piece was censored by the Lord Chamberlain's Office due to the then-in-effect Theatres Act of 1843, which required all scripts to be approved by the Chamberlain. When Mr. Bond refused to alter his work, a fierce campaign against the attempted censorship rallied, with Sir Laurence Olivier delivering a particularly passionate defense of Mr. Bond's work. The company was nevertheless found guilty of violating the Theatres Act, and were given a conditional discharge.

Undeterred, Mr. Bond and the Royal Court continued to defy the confines of the Chamberlain, producing an even more controversial work in 1967 that depicted a lesbian relationship between Queen Victoria and Florence Nightingale, royal conjoined twins, and a coup carried out by Prince Albert and Prime Minister Disraeli. Named Early Morning, the piece summoned almost immediate fallout due to its mockery of the monarchy, leading to a total ban of Mr. Bond's artistic output.

During the total ban, which saw Mr. Bond's work illegal to perform in Britain, Saved became the greatest international success of its time, with more than 30 different productions staged throughout the world between 1966 and 1969. The backlash to the ban was so great that, by 1969, Mr. Bond and the Royal Court were able to influence British policy to the point that the Theatres Act was repealed, freeing both themselves and their industry from the shackles of the Chamberlain's censorship.

It is for this legacy-defining act of anticensorship that Mr. Bond is best remembered. His career continued for the ensuing 50 years, producing several more quarrels with established institutions, but the repeal of the Theatres Act permanently changed the landscape of English theatre. 

Known for a near constant work ethic, Mr. Bond leaves behind 50 different pieces of anti-imperialist theatre, including The Pope's Wedding, Narrow Road to the Deep North, Black Mass, Passion, Lear, The Sea, Bingo, The Fool, A-A-America!, Grandma Faust, The Swing, Stone, The Woman, The Bundle, The Worlds, Restoration, Summer, Derek, Human Cannon, The War Plays, Jackets or The Secret Hand, In the Company of Men, September, Olly's Prison, Tuesday, Coffee, At the Inland Sea, Eleven Vests, The Crime of the twenty-first Century, The Children, Existence, The Balancing Act, The Short Electra, People, The Under Room, Chair, Arcade, Tune, A Window, The Edge, The Broken Bowl, The Angry Roads, and many, many more.

Mr. Bond reached Broadway once, when his play Narrow Road to the Deep North played the Vivian Beaumont Theater in 1972. His final work, Dea, premiered in 2016.

Mr. Bond was predeceased by his wife of 46 years, Elisabeth Pablé. Information on a public memorial is forthcoming.

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