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Craig Higginson PDF Print E-mail

Craig Higginson was born in Zimbabwe. He attended Michaelhouse and Clifton Nottingham Road before leaving South Africa at the end of 1995 to work in the UK. He also spent time in Paris before returning back to South Africa in 2004.

Higginson’s employment at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Young Vic inspired him to write plays that were “challenging in form and content and also connected to social issues”. He has had an illustrious career as a playwright with his works being performed and produced at the National Theatre (London), the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Trafalgar Studios (on London’s West End), the Traverse Theatre (Edinburgh), the Stadsteater (Stockholm), Salisbury Theatre, the Citizens Theatre (Glasgow), Live Theatre (Newcastle), Next Theatre (Chicago), Theatre 503 and the Finborough Theatre (both London), the Market Theatre (Johannesburg) and several other theatres and festivals around the world. He was one of ten playwrights from around the world to be commissioned by the National Theatre (London) for the 2012 Connections Festival. The play commissioned, Little Foot, is his most recent production.

Higginson has also enjoyed success as a novelist. He has written The Hill (2005), Last Summer (2010), The Landscape Painter (2011) and The Dream House (2015).

His plays have earned him critical acclaim. Nigel Vermaas praised the dialogue of The Imagined Land as peppered with images but “never preciously, and always character appropriate”. In his review of The Girl in the Yellow Dress Dominic Cavendish was impressed by Higginson’s ability to filter “pressing concerns about race, prejudice and power through a highly charged two-hander”. Higginson’s fictional texts have also garnered positive reviews. Caroline Smart commended Higginson's work in the Last Summer for "steering what could [have been] a sentimental love story onto a higher plane". Marianne Gray lauded Higginson's "dense yet lyrical style of writing" and his depiction of the landscapes in The Landscape Painter. The Dream House was described as "engrossing" and praised for its "beautifully poetic narrative".

Higginson has earned several awards and accolades. He won the Sony Gold Award for the Best Radio Drama in the UK, an Edinburgh Fringe First, the UJ Award for South African Literature in English and the Naledi Award for Best South African play. He was also shortlisted for the 2012 English M-Net Literary Award. In 2015 he appeared at a panel discussion during the prestigious Time of the Writer festival. In 2016 The Dream House was shortlisted for the 2016 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize.

At present Higginson lives in Johannesburg. He is working on two new plays: The Red Door and The Mission Song (the second being an adaptation of John le Carre’s novel for Headlong (London) and John le Carre’s production company The Ink Factory (London and LA), as well as a new novel set in Paris intended for release in 2017. The Dream House will be the first of his novels to appear in French in 2016 (Mercure de France); Last Summer will follow in 2017.


Twitter: @CraigAHigginson

 

Selected Work

Excerpt from The Dream House (2015:100-101):

‘Iminjunju le.’

That is what Looksmart’s mother said to Patricia when she entered the

dimly lit hut.

Then she said in English, ‘I am pain.’

Every part of her body looked twisted up like a wet towel. She was struggling to take off her necklace because she couldn’t breathe. Not long afterwards, during a contraction, her waters broke and she let out a moan of sorrow.

‘I can’t get the baby out. It is stuck.’

‘It isn’t stuck.’

Patricia was saying this.

‘The pain is your friend. It is there to help get the baby out.’

Every mother had to find that moment when they changed their minds about the pain, when it was a thing they no longer tried to escape, but became something they started to use, to work with, riding through it, not stopping at it – using it not as obstacle, but as a horse.

‘Don’t scream. You’re wasting energy. Instead, you must push.’

It took another hour of screaming and not screaming before the baby came out, grey and wet and rubbery, like a big dead fish. But it wasn’t dead. Patricia lifted it up and it took its first breath – and screamed. And everyone, except the mother, laughed. The mother was too far away, too emptied out, reduced to a husk.

Patricia knew at once that there was nothing weak about this baby. They cut the cord and it screamed again and they knew it was going to be all right. The baby was wrapped in a bundle and handed to the mother and immediately he found her nipple and started to suck. Even though her milk hadn’t arrived yet, he knew what he was about – what he wanted and where it would come from. He was never going to apologise to anyone.

‘A strong little chap, that’s what he will be,’ Patricia said.

‘We will call him Looksmart,’ said his mother.

Usually, Patricia would have left, but that night she sat by the bed, waiting to make sure the mother and child would be all right – and waiting to see if they would be able to sleep. But the mother didn’t sleep, only the baby did. And when he was asleep, holding onto her breast like he had always been there, the mother drank a mug of sweet tea and Patricia drank one with her. They stared at the tiny sleeping face for so long that all other faces looked impossibly huge, like exaggerated moons.

 

Bibliography

 

Fiction:

 

2005. The Hill. Johannesburg: Jacana

2010. Last Summer. Johannesburg: Picador Africa.

2011. The Landscape Painter. Johannesburg: Picador Africa.

2015. The Dream House. Johannesburg: Picador Africa.

Plays:

 

Dream of the Dog, 2009, Wits Press/2010, Oberon Books, London
The Girl in the Yellow Dress, 2010, Oberon Books, London
The Jungle Book, 2011, Oberon Books, London
Little Foot, 2012, Oberon Books (SA version)/2012, Methuen (UK version)

 
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