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Stripwell


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A: Howard Barker Pf: 1975, London Pb: 1977 G: Pol. com. in 2 acts S: Stripwell's home, various locations in London and the Home Counties, and the jungle, 1970s C: 5m, 3fWhen Graham Stripwell, a judge, sentences Cargill to prison, Cargill swears that he will one day murder Stripwell. Stripwell lives with his wife Dodie and his cantankerous father-in-law Jarrow Houghton, a former Labour politician. He also has a relationship with a young go-go dancer Babs. His son Tim is intending to smuggle drugs into the country hidden inside elephants. When Tim meets Babs, she switches her affections to Tim and refuses to leave with Stripwell as planned. Stripwell informs the police about Tim's drug smuggling. Dodie walks out on him in disgust. Finally, Cargill reappears and shoots Stripwell.

A: Howard Barker Pf: 1975, London Pb: 1977 G: Pol. com. in 2 acts S: Stripwell's home, various locations in London and the Home Counties, and the jungle, 1970s C: 5m, 3f

Stripwell is quite different from most of Barker's plays, especially his more recent postmodernist excursions into ambiguity. Barker said that it was ‘planned coldly to be a commercially successful play’, and he now refuses to list it under his published work. It is an accessible, witty piece, made more enjoyable at its Royal Court premiere by the playing of Michael Hordern in the title role. In appropriating the genre of West End comedy, Barker set out to explore ‘the ambiguous state of power, its mediation, the complicity of victims’ and so challenged Establishment figures from a Socialist viewpoint. As his wife says, Stripwell is ‘The sort of person who ends up running concentration camps’. More integrity is in fact shown by Cargill, the violent criminal. Barker employs a variety of styles: verbal wit, grotesque humour, psychological realism (as in Stripwell's confession of his affair to his wife), direct address to the audience, abrupt theatrical changes (e.g. from courtroom to a dance bar), and shock (e.g. the final murder).


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Authors

Howard Barker (b. 1946)