Uncomprimising British playwright, theatre practitioner artist and poet. His early works for the theatre were eminently political, anti-authoritarian yet left-wing in nature. Barker seems determined to piss off most of the prevailing forces in British theatre, which could go some way to explaining his relative obscurity in his home country (Barker is highly respected, and frequently performed on the European mainland)
Amongst his better known early plays are:
- Claw, His first full length piece to be published, exploring concepts of moral relativism and the entrenchment of class power structures in the UK;
- The Castle, a biting allegorical attack on the politics of the nuclear arms race, and Ronald Reagan's proposed Star Wars national missile defense programme;
- Scenes from an Execution, an exploration of the concept of artistic responsibility, together with the distorting impact of state sponsorship;
As Barker's canon has developed, he has moved progressively further away from a theatre of specific political ideology, or 'message', choosing instead to craft works designed to provoke debate, visceral and intellectual response, to challenge the comfortable apathy of the audience.
In many respects, it is profitable to see Judith as the pivotal play in the development of Barker's more recent drama. Denying simple interpretation, the spiralling seductions and power games of the piece provide both a compelling and challenging theatrical experience.
The Wrestling School was set up in 1998 as a travelling theatre company dedicated to staging the works of Barker. It has been referred to by the Independent newspaper as "the most important buildingless company in Britain".
"Arguments for the Theatre" sets out Barker's theatrical ideology. More a manifesto than an academic or vocational text, this collection of writing sets out Barker's proposals for a Theatre of Catastrophe. People generally love Barker's work or hate it. There seems little doubt that that's exactly the way he wants to be recieved.
All Barker's plays and poetry published by Calder Publications, London
Arguments for the Theatre published by Manchester University Press