Makers of Real Shapes: Christopher Hampton and his Story-tellers

  • Sebastian Black


Christopher Hampton has always insisted that his plays have little in common. In an interview after Savages he was asked whether he saw “any kind of development in [his] ... work — in retrospect,” to which he firmly replied: “No. People have often asked, but I see no connection between my plays whatsoever, except for the fact that I wrote them. I try to approach each subject in a way appropriate to it.”1 Even more forcefully, he told Oleg Kerensky: “‘I have a violent urge not to repeat myself.’”2 Critical opinion has largely been content to accept the author’s own description of his work, while at the same time drawing a rough distinction between his elegant comedies of manners, When Did You Last See My Mother?, The Philanthropist, and Treats, and the two plays which tackle more ambitious subjects in broader settings, Total Eclipse, and Savages.


Explosive Expense Hone Hate Prose 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Oleg Kerensky, The New British Drama (London, 1977), p. 109.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Christopher Hampton, When Did You Last See My Mother? (London, 1967), p. 15.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Christopher Hampton, The Philanthropist (London, 1970), p. 11. All subsequent citations from the play are from this edition and will be noted in the text.Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    Christopher Hampton, Savages (London, 1974), p. 49. All subsequent citations from the play are from this edition and will be noted in the text. However, in a letter to me (9 April 1980), Hampton has stated that he does not consider this edition, published by Faber and Faber, to be the definitive one. When he came to prepare the play for its first American production, he made changes, “first out of necessity ([we used] an open stage, the character playing the anthropologist couldn’t manage an English accent, and so on) and then, as the work proceeded, out of choice. If consulted (which seldom happens) I now recommend this as my preferred final version.” I have not cited this version partly because it is available only in a specialized theatrical context (New York: Samuel French Acting Edition, 1976), but primarily because the alterations do not affect my argument. All the passages of dialogue quoted are in both editions of the play.Google Scholar
  5. 14.
    A summary of critical reactions to the original production from which these remarks are taken is published in Martin Esslin, “The Critic in the Theatre No. 3: In Search of ‘savages’,” Theatre Quarterly, 3, No. 12 (1973), 81. Esslin adds his own comment on 83.Google Scholar
  6. 19.
    Norman Lewis, “Genocide,” Sunday Times Magazine, 23 February 1969, p. 45.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Hersh Zeifman and Cynthia Zimmerman 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Black

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations