Killing Time, the centrepiece of Francis Warner’s Requiem trilogy, is a study of war and of its roots in each one of us. The play was performed at the 1975 Edinburgh Festival, where it won high acclaim.
'The plays of Francis Warner have, by daring appeal to the realms of music and physiology, considerably widened the area of sensibility of those properly responsive to them. . . . Killing Time is not for all markets, but where it is appreciated it will fetch a high price.’ Harold Hobson, The Sunday Times
‘Dramatic and provoking. . . . Excellent acting by an experienced cast.’ The Scotsman
'Killing Time completes a remarkable trilogy by one of Britain’s leading playwrights. Warner is not an “easy” playwright. His works bristle with intellect and although his characters are genuinely human the situations in which they find themselves are often dramatically bizarre.’ Cambridge Evening News
'Killing Time is a difficult play to assess in conventional terms. Nevertheless this is a truly intellectual play. . . a diverse but consciously poetic vision of war as a “fever in the brain”.’ Edinburgh Festival Times
'Killing Time is an important philosophical and moral work. Set in the human brain, it is a series of vignettes on the subject of war, all carefully counterpointed to reflect the biological working patterns of the brain. Not so much a play as a theatrical poem or mathematical theorem, it is unashamedly intellectual, frequently provoking and always demanding.’ The Stage
High up on a separate platform, an elderly man calls into being the imaginative world of the play. He descends into his creation, and suffers at the hands of the darkness his own light has shadowed, before coming forward to speak the Epilogue. Meeting Ends is the third play and culmination of Warner’s Requiem trilogy. It received its première performance at the Edinburgh Festival in 1973, where it was an immediate popular and critical success.
The production of Mr Warner’s play is an exciting event. . . . He makes references that are not in every child’s lexicon. . . . But it would be foolish to deny that, in Meeting Ends, Fringe theatre has uniquely produced something that is absorbingly experimental, forward-looking and brave, as well as, at times, in no equivocal sense, beautiful. . . .
'Eliot-like mastery of literary allusion. . . . Martin Scott delivers Mr Warner’s beautiful contemplative poetry with the authority it deserves.’ Sunday Times
'Francis Warner directed and designed his own play with stylised simplicity that put the other productions visually into the second division. Mr Warner may have created a theatre of sexual absurdity. But as the cavalcade of episodes unfolds, and the sexual games we play are explicitly portrayed, we discover that Meeting Ends is more a satire on rampant sexuality and (in its subtle uses of total nudity) an intelligent antidote to Oh! Calcutta!. It is difficult not to be grateful for an evening of sensuous and intellectual pleasure that convinces us that satiation of sexual appetites is not enough, and for such acting that shines brightly in the context of some of the other productions.’ Plays and Players
'Francis Warner’s Meeting Ends receives a first-rate performance. Nudity is put to strictly relevant dramatic ends, and the play is a richly-worked statement, constructed to a musical form, on the nature of human love.' Birmingham Post
'The language is enormously varied, ranging from a rich poetic style [to] finally and perhaps best a simple unaffected tenderness. The play is a meditation on the human condition: it is sometimes funny, sometimes solemn, sometimes rather successfully erotic. The production, by the author himself, is highly effective.’ Times Educational Supplement
'Poetry and puns and the bizarre but orderly detail of surrealist painting. The play consists of a formally patterned series of scenes, in which the contrasts between the grotesque and the lyrical, the symbolic and the banal, have been elegantly and skilfully exploited by the author. . . .‘[It is] a sort of oratorio for the voices of three women and the incompatible male gods they try to dominate or propitiate. The five characters are all admirably acted.’ Scotsman
'The remarkable series of dramas written by our most adventurous experimental playwright.’ The Times
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In an empty circle, and without props, Francis Warner recreated for the 1978 Observer Oxford Festival of Theatre the world of late adolescence, of boys and girls caught in the process of becoming men and women.
‘Superbly and masterfully played’ (Oxford Mail), this beautifully balanced, minutely complex play examines the familiar Warnerian preoccupations, this time in a comedy of love, rich in poetry and generous in spiritMore info →
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Highly praised by the critics, Living Creation is Francis Warner’s tenth successful play. It tells the story of Lorenzo de’ Medici’s dominance over Florence, of his patronage of the poets and artists, and particularly of his relationship with Botticelli (whose life unifies the action), and covers the death first of Lorenzo’s brother, then of himself against the background of Savonarola’s rise to power, fall, and execution.
Francis Warner, the Oxford poet and dramatist, has given vivid expression to the civic and religious conflicts of the Medicis, Savonarola, and their contemporaries in renaissance Florence.
Much of the action concerns Botticelli’s creation of some of his masterpieces - shown in colour slide projections - [and] their impact on his fellow Florentines. . . .
Mr Warner, in language that is invariably compulsive and heightened by the richness of sensitive, forceful imagery, has brought to the stage the intrigue, the religious sourness, the savage cruelty and also the beauty of the Florence of the Medicis.’ The Stage
Francis Warner has done Oxford a real service by choosing to stage his latest play at the Examination Schools.
His verse takes on a new muscularity and sensitivity. The large and able cast respond. And Greta Verdin’s beautifully staged and orchestrated production has the same hypnotic appeal as a Botticelli painting.’ Oxford Mail More info →
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'Francis Warner has shown once more he is a masterful poet and dramatist. Healing Nature, his eleventh play, is his best work to date. The action centres round Pericles, the aristocratic general, commandingly played by Rob Smith, as he creates "an Athens all the world will imitate", only to see the tide of fortune turn and the empire fall into decay. Its exploration of the dilemmas facing empire-builders and empire- losers is original, thought-provoking, and relevant.
‘It is a compelling play which combines the grand, heroic drama of Marlowe's Tamburlaine with moments of exquisitely delicate lyric poetry and unexpected dashes of humour.' The Stage
'A real treat in poetry was to be had in the Sheldonian last night. This was the première performance of Healing Nature, by Francis Warner. . . The play is about the turmoil that the birth pangs of democracy bring to a city, and the revolution and hostilities that accompany it.
‘Francis Warner's play was safe in the hands of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, who, under the direction of Mark Payton, put on a classically Greek production. All brought out the Shakespearian quality of the play's verse and depth of meaning. And there could have been no better setting than the magnificent amphitheatre that is the Sheldonian.' Oxford Mail.
A ‘contemporary classic’ Oxford MailMore info →
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‘Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS) gave the première of Francis Warner’s new play Byzantium in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, followed by two performances in the University Church, Oxford, and another in Winchester Cathedral.
‘Byzantium is a play in two acts. It opens in 527 A.D. with the service in which Justinian is crowned Emperor in succession to his uncle Justin. In Act One Justinian is full of zeal and optimism for the tasks which his vision sets before him. Act Two is altogether more sombre, with unrest at home, news of a catastrophic earthquake in Beirut, and even Byzantium itself plague-stricken and the Empress herself dying. Moreover, the Emperor is plotted against by wily Cappadocian, who is trapped by the spirited Antonina, only to be spared from death by the Christian magnanimity of Justinian.
‘This complex background is sketched lightly yet comprehensively by Warner in elegant and beautiful verse, which was delivered with clarity and fluency by an admirable young cast directed by Tim Prentki
‘Warner did not choose an easy subject with Byzantium. He chose a challenge and he rose to that challenge and surmounted it magnificently. He is a master of plot and characterisation, and, indeed, of the English language, which he commands with a benign authority and loving finesse.’ The StageMore info →
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‘In his new play, Virgil and Caesar, the completion of a serial epic entitled AGORA, Francis Warner explores the dramatic tension between worldly rule, the pragmatism of politics, and the vision of the poet as idealist.
‘Staged in the uniquely fitting setting of Oxford University’s Convocation House, the production by Tim Prentki and Dominic Shellard exploited the limited space of fan-vaulted beauty to fine advantage.
‘The play, as it explored the relationships between the machinations of worldly power, the wooing of the army, the detecting of subterfuge from the judiciary, the temptation of tyrannical power, the duties of family life, and the seductive disasters of succumbing to lust, unfolded in masterly fashion against the background of the philosophical and other views of the poets.
‘Warner brings to our attention the perennial conflicts that are as timeless as they are timely. The command of English through poetic imagery must rank as the very best. Here we have laid before us the perennial crises of humanity dressed in classical clothes yet intensely of today.
‘How valuable such rare and important plays are, being written in times when not only biological species are under threat around the world, but also cultural continuity itself.’ The Stage
'Detailed. . . accurate . . . moving, with convincing dramatic power, Warner’s verse filled the ear satisfyingly, and echoes in the memory.’ Jasper Griffin, in Oxford Magazine
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‘Francis Warner’s play in celebration of the quincentenary of François I’s birth in 1494 is an act of courage. . . . It opens in 1515, on the king’s return from fighting the Swiss, and takes us to his death in 1547.
'Along the way, we meet not only the king himself, but also figures at least equal in prestige: Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, Clément Marot, Leonardo da Vinci, Marguerite de Navarre. . . . The play maintains a consistently coherent line. Tim Prentki, as director, deserves his share of the credit for carrying forward this complex tale.
'We hear of François as king, warrior, husband, lover/philanderer, patron of the arts, huntsman, opponent of the Sorbonne, creator of institutions free from the domination of the Church, religious bigot, and many things more>. . . The whole is constructed on the basis of serious research into the period and the characters concerned.’ Oxford Magazine
‘It is a substantial play, in verse, which presents an intriguing picture of the Renaissance court. Francis’s patronage of the arts appears to spring as much from interests of state and princely one-upmanship as from his much-vaunted love of beauty. But it also provokes one of the play’s most poignant scenes, the death of Leonardo da Vinci. King Frances I deserves to be widely performed.’ Church Times
'King Francis I takes its place in an enterprise aimed at producing a vast historical vision.’ Oxford Magazine
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‘This is a study in “Weimar as a mode of spiritual life’, as Thomas Mann might have called it: the spirit of the place reflected in a swift series of sparkling encounters, bewildering in its variety, stirring in its epic scope.
'The vision was conveyed though some splendid acting. . . . Here they are, the secular saints of German Kulturreligion; all conjured up with perfect ease and conviction. This play is about people, some more, some less noble, but all noble in their efforts and, in Faustian fashion, “ever striving”. . .
'In the end, what counts is language, the language of poetry (as Herder would have been the first to insist). The verse is effortless and pure, and rises on occasion to noble resonance.
'For readers of German literature, this language holds special delights. In addition to the poems and the plays, the novels and the essays, contemporary letters, diaries, reported conversations are continually present. Much learning, lightly worn, has gone into this play.
'An example. At the end of the play, the audience is left with a masterly translation of the most celebrated of Goethe’s, perhaps of all German poems (“Über allen Gipfeln/ist Ruh”).
'The end is sombre, indeed. This mystery play promises no salvation. The sound of cannons is a moving and fitting end to Goethe’s Weimar.' Oxford Magazine
'The scale is Shakespearean, with a huge cast (thirty speaking parts) sweeping through time and place in flowing blank verse. . . . Warner is excellently served by his actors; Daniel Cassiel brings gravitas to Goethe, and Ian Drysdale achieves an astonishing double as Schiller and Napoleon. Tim Prentki produces smoothly as always.' Oxford TimesMore info →
Volume 14 of Oxford Theatre Texts series
viii, 138pp. plus 32pp colour illus.
'This new play by Francis Warner followed the life of Rembrandt from his arrival in Amsterdam in 1625 until his death some fifty years later. By tracing his friendships with the great figures of the day, the play explored the interactions of art and life in the Dutch Republic during a period of political turmoil and religious intolerance.
"Central to this cultural milieu was the Speelhouse, essentially a highly refined brothel, whose patrons included Prince Frederik Hendrik, the poet Joost van den Vondel, the royal advisor Constantijn Huygens, and of course Rembrandt...
Such liberated more conflicted directly with the prevalent Dutch Calvinism, whose moral severities were personified by the Reverends Smout and Trigland, a ludicrous duo of preachers... They brought about the suppression of the speelhouse, thus causing the dissolution of Rembrandt's circle and initiating his decline.
"The language, while stylised, came to sound entirely natural, thanks to the skill of the actors, at times achieving a lyrical beauty; and its cadences gave a suitable distance to seventeenth century Holland.
"Rembrandt (Simon Kane) had a commanding stage presence, and his defences of art were some of the most convincing I have heard from a fictionalised artist.
"The play's emotional involvement was very strong, and there were moments when the audience's identification with the characters became almost palpable. This was exemplified by the shocked silence that greeted the deaths of Rembrandt's first wife and child. Death was the overarching theme of this play, and its impact on Rembrandt's work became pronounced towards the end, especially in his final self-portrait where the experience of the years was etched in his face." Oxford Magazine
‘The play is fabulously detailed and interweaves the joy and tragedy of individuals with the background of political and religious change. The language is rich, with sparks of humour and pertinent observations on love, sensuality, grief, morality and art. This depth is sustained by immaculate and engaging acting and lavish costumes. A few hundred words cannot do this play justice. Go and see it." Eva Spain in Theatre Review (Daily Information, Oxford)
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