Charles Wood (playwright)

Charles Wood (born 6 August 1932, St. Peter Port, Guernsey) is a playwright and scriptwriter for radio, television, and film. He lives in England.

His work has been staged at the Royal National Theatre as well as at the Royal Court Theatre and in the theatres of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1984. Wood served in the 17th/21st Lancers and military themes are found in many of his works.



Though he was born in Guernsey - his parents were actors in a repertory company playing in Guernsey at the time - he left the island with his parents when he was still only an infant. His parents worked as actors in repertory and fit-ups mainly in the north of England and Wales and had no fixed place of abode. His education was, until the outbreak of the Second World War, sporadic. The family settled in Chesterfield, Derbyshire in 1939. The first house they rented was 1 Cromwell Road and the second was 20 Abercrombie Street. He attended St Mary's Catholic Primary School from which he was awarded a Special Place at Chesterfield Grammar School.

At the war's end, the family relocated to Kidderminster in Worcestershire where Charles Wood obtained a place at King Charles I Grammar School. He was by now old enough to work in the theatre managed by his father Jack Wood. This was The Playhouse, demolished to make way for a traffic island. He worked as a stagehand and electrician and assistant to various scenic artists in his spare time at weekends and every night. He also played small parts in the repertory company produced by his father. His mother Mae Harris was a leading actress in the company. In 1948, Charles Wood gained entrance to Birmingham School of Art to study Theatrical Design and lithography.

He joined the Army in 1950, and served five years with the colours and seven years on reserve. He was discharged with the rank of corporal, reduced to trooper on entering the Regular Army Reserve. He served nowhere of any importance and was only rated "Conduct: Very Good. No medals."

He married Valerie Newman, an actress, in 1954. She was working in repertory in a theatre at Worcester, the Theatre Royal, once the second oldest working theatre in the country.

On leaving the Army, he worked as an electronic wireman at BAC, Filton. Later he worked as a scenic artist, layout artist, stage manager in England and Canada.


Charles Wood wrote his first play, Prisoner and Escort, in 1959. It was a play for television which was first performed on radio, then on the stage and later on television.

His plays include: Cockade, three one-act plays (the already mentioned) Prisoner and Escort, John Thomas, and Spare, Arts Theatre, (1963); Meals on Wheels, Royal Court Theatre, (1965); Don't Make Me Laugh, Aldwych Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, (1966); Fill The Stage With Happy Hours, Nottingham Playhouse, Vaudeville Theatre, (1967); Dingo, Bristol Arts Centre, Royal Court Theatre, (1967), Jingo Aldwch Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company (1975), and many others. His last play was Across From the Garden of Allah, Comedy Theatre[citation needed] (1986).

He has written many works for television, including the story of Robert Lawrence MC in Tumbledown, which he wrote first as a feature film after many interviews with Robert Lawrence. Lawrence later wrote his own version of his story called "When the Fighting is Over". He adapted three episodes of Sharpe, and A Breed of Heroes (adapted from the novel by Alan Judd). He also wrote the mini-series Wagner (1983) with Richard Burton and Vanessa Redgrave, and Puccini.

His work in cinema includes The Knack …and How to Get It (1965) Grand Prix Cannes, Screenwriters Guild Award. Help! (1965) with the Beatles, How I Won the War (1967) with John Lennon, The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968) and Iris (2001) Humanitas Award. Christopher Award. His radio play "Conspiracy at Sevres" was nominated by the WGGB in the best radio play category for 2007.

Wood's plays are now rarely revived. His play Jingo was revived by Primavera at the Finborough Theatre in March 2008, directed by Tom Littler. Jingo, subtitled A Farce of War, is set during the last days of British control of Singapore before the humiliating surrender to the Japanese. Susannah Harker played Gwendoline and Anthony Howell her ex-husband Ian.

Selected writings

  • Plays: "Veterans" & "Across from the Garden of Allah" (Oberon Books, 1997)
  • Plays: "H", "Jingo", "Dingo" (Oberon Books, 1999)
  • Plays: "Fill the Stage with Happy Hours", "Red Star", "Ms.Courage" (Oberon Books, 2005)
  • Screenplay: "Tumbledown" (Penguin 1987)
  • Screenplay: "Iris" (Bloomsbury, 2002)


  • Dawn Fowler & John Lennard "On War: Charles Wood’s Military Conscience", in Mary Luckhurst (ed) Blackwell’s Companion to Modern British and Irish Drama, 2006, Oxford & New York: Blackwell, pp. 341–57

External links

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