Roy Kift



Roy Kift is a writer best known for his play Mary, Mary, which he wrote whilst working for Freehold in the early 1970s, performed at the Royal Court and the Mickery, and Stronger than Superman (Starker als Superman) which was premiered at the GRIPS Theater, Berlin in 1981. Stronger than Superman was produced in over 20 German theatres and has been translated and performed in over 20 countries. After studying at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth and then Drama Centre, London, Roy began life as an actor working in Sheffield (Theatre Vanguard TIE), Newcastle, Amsterdam and in London, including work with Inter-Action (Ambiance and Almost Free) on their ‘Black and White Power Season’ at the ICA in 1970 and became a good friend of Naftali Yavin, whom he interviewed. Other plays of the period were produced at the Warehouse Theatre – now Donmar (The Complete Whole Earth Catalogue), Tricycle Theatre (Mrs Robinson’s Party), Hampstead Theatre (Cakewalk), Stratford East (The Land of Hope and Glory) and the National Theatre (The Double Bass). He moved to Germany in the late 1970s where he resides to this day. Since 1970 he has devoted his life mainly to writing and translating theatre plays (Moliere, Goldoni, Patrick Suskind and Heinar Kipphardt) and other texts, with a few excursions in directing and acting. His works include theatre plays, travel guides and children’s books. He translates from French, German and Italian into English. Over the years Roy has contributed to a number of theatre magazines (DRAMA, Plays and Players, Theatre Quarterly) and writes regular articles and criticism to the New York theatre magazine Western European Stages.

For further images see our Mustapha Matura and Roland Rees and Freehold web pages.
Below are some extracts from Roy Kift’s interview – a full account of the topics covered in his interview can be accessed at Roy Kift Topic List page.

Interview extract:

Black Pieces by Mustapha Matura

 ‘… and I was finishing in Sheffield and I thought I have to go down to London, and I was working still as an actor in Sheffield, and I think I was starting to write Mary, Mary [for Freehold] and Roland [Rees] called me and he said that I’ve got a play by a guy called Mustapha Matura called Black Pieces and there’s a piece for a white policeman and another one – pretty small roles, was I interested? and we’d be doing it at the Ambiance and then going to the Mickery [Amsterdam] and doing all that stuff, and I said of course, wonderful . He sent me the script and I thought this isn’t English (laughter) – if you’re writing a play it has to be English, I thought I can’t understand a word of what these guys are saying, but Roland, God bless him, had obviously seen the talent there and I said I’d do it – of course, that way I got into the Ambiance and I met a lot of really good black actors, Stefan Kalipha and Oscar – Oscar James!  – – Oscar!  Yes, that’s right! And we had a really great time together working on the play and suddenly I was, if you like, in the middle of it all, which was  the Almost Free and the Ambiance – I remember going to Westbourne Terrace and working in a rehearsal room – it was all very dilapidated, but who cared? We were – it wasn’t so much what I can remember, I can remember  the spirit of the thing –  everything was sort of bubbly and creative and whatever we’re doing is going to be good for us and good for the theatre and we’re doing something revolutionary and it was completely optimistic – whatever we did was going to be good and new and everybody seemed to be interested. Time Out was there and was always interested in what was going on – theatre seemed to be quite an important part of London culture, or British culture, but apart from that I cannot remember very much at all except that everything was ad hoc and fun (laughter) – it was fun, it was great.’

Mary, Mary with Freehold

Audio transcription

Stronger than Superman

Audio transcription

Roy Kift’s Unfinished Histories interview is now deposited with the British Library Sound Archive, V&A Theatre Collections and Sheffield University. See Viewing Interviews for contact details.
(Apologies for the poor recording quality)

Roy Kift website

Stronger Than Superman Roy Kift (Amber Lane,1981)
Camp Comedy  by Roy Kift (Kindle,2013)
Getting to Grips with Children’s Theatre Roy Kift (Theatre Quarterly No. 39, 1981)
Hoping for the Unexpected: The Theatre of Peter Zadek Roy Kift (New Theatre Quarterly Vol. 1, 1985)
Reality and Illusion in the Theresienstadt Cabaret in Claude Schumacher (ed.): Staging the Holocaust. The Shoah in Drama and Performance (Cambridge University Press, 1998)

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