Martin Crimp (born 1956) is one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary British drama. After graduating from Cambridge University, Crimp gained the support of the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond which nurtured his early career and produced his first six plays Love Games, Living Remains, Four Attempted Acts, Definitely the Bahamas, Dealing with Clair and Play with Repeats. Alongside his residency at the Orange Tree, Crimp also wrote regularly for BBC Radio 3. In 1990 No One Sees the Video was staged at the Royal Court theatre. The Royal Court has since become home to Martin Crimp’s plays and produced the premieres of The Treatment, Attempts on her Life, The Country, Fewer Emergencies and The City. Crimp has also worked on numerous translations and adaptations including Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, Mollier’s Misanthrope and Chekhov’s The Seagull.
Martin Crimp does with British suburbia what David Lynch does with the America of white picket fences. Crimp’s characters are mostly middle class and live in a world of consumer comforts. But beneath the seams of this presentable exterior lies a dark underside. This flip-side is often characterised by insecurity, fear and fractured parent-child bonds. In The Country a doctor and his wife move to the country with their children to start a new life, but their rustic idyll is shattered one night by the discovery of an unconscious stranger. The stranger seems to connect the doctor with sex, drugs and infidelity and their cosy little haven begins to unravel. Aleks Sierz introduces the world of Martin Crimp like this:
‘ The pavements are clean and level, and the trees are lovely to look at, nice and green. The houses are neat and tidy, and the families that live in them look comfortable and contented. But wait a minute, Mummy and Daddy are shouting, strangers are eying up kids, and the news on the telly is full of ugly pictures and vile events. Welcome to Crimpland.’
Crimp’s writing is also distinctive in its formal rigour. He is a very precise writer, a perfectionist who cares about the look of his text on the page and weighs every word for relevance. Form and content are synonymous in his work. He tells stories, but he always calls attention to their telling. A constant theme throughout his plays is the unknowability of the other. This means that he denies his audience easy character identification or narrative arcs, since he believes that reality cannot be truly represented. Neither words nor images nor theatre can show us the real. You can only represent your version of reality, and every version is of equal value.
Crimp’s most extreme exploration of this premise is Attempts on her life, a play in which the central character Anne consists only of the opinions others form of her. Anne is a vacuum to be filled by others’ projections and so she becomes a terrorist, a victim of aliens, the girl next door and a brand of car. Attempts on her life has been performed the world over and established Martin Crimp as one of contemporary theatre’s most innovative writers.
Philip Thorne, dramaturg for OIT
Oslo Internasjonale Teater gjorde en iscenesatt lesning av Martin Crimps Forsøk på Livet i mars 2010.