British playwright, screenwriter and memoirist Simon Gray died Wednesday in London. He was 71 and had previously been diagnosed with cancer.
Known for plays focused on the educated middle class, including “Butley” and “The Common Pursuit,” Gray had more recently gained acclaim for a series of hard-hitting memoirs including “The Year of the Jouncer” and “The Last Cigarette.”
He penned the 1974 bigscreen adaptation of 1971 play “Butley,” directed by Harold Pinter and starring Alan Bates, the frequent Gray collaborator who originated the role onstage. (Pinter also directed several of Gray’s plays.) In addition Gray provided the screenplay for 1987 pic “A Month in the Country.”
Born in Hayling Island, Hampshire, England, Gray attended Dalhousie U. in Canada and then Cambridge. For several years he taught literature at Queen Mary College at the U. of London.
His legit output included “Wise Child,” his first play, which premiered in 1967, as well as “Quartermaine’s Terms” and “Melon.” He also wrote a number of teleplays and novels.
His candid recent memoirs chronicled his fights with alcoholism and a hefty cigarette habit. When the actor Stephen Fry walked off a 1995 production of his play “Cell Mates,” the story became the book “Fat Chance.”
A recently concluded London revival of “Common Pursuit” garnered strong press at the Menier Chocolate Factory, while Broadway auds saw “Butley” in a 2006 staging toplined by Nathan Lane.
Gray was reportedly working with a West End producer to adapt “Last Cigarette” for the stage, an endeavor that may still continue to develop. A new, recently finished memoir was skedded for publication later this year.
He is survived by his wife, Victoria, and two children from a previous marriage.