James Graham

Playwright James Graham examined the political soul of his native Britain in such critically successful and award-winning plays and television dramas as "This House" (2012), "Coalition" (Channel 4, 2015), "Ink" (2017) and "Brexit" (Channel 4, 2019). Born July 8, 1982 in Mansfield, a market town in Nottinghamshire, England, Graham grew up in the midst of the miners' strike that impacted the United Kingdom's coal industry in the mid-1980s. The experience imparted upon him that while the business of politics was carried out in the Houses of Parliament, the decisions made there had real and lasting impact on people like his neighbors and fellow townsfolk. And when he embarked on a career as a playwright after his studies at the University of Hull, the uncomfortable axis of politics and the population would be at the core of his work. His first effort, "Coal Not Dole!" (2002), directly addressed the miners' strike, and he drew critical praise for his second play, "Albert's Boy" (2005), which he penned while a writer in residence at Kensington's Finborough Theatre. The play, about Albert Einstein's moral conflict over his work on the atomic bomb, was a critical success, as was its follow-up, "Eden's Empire" (2006), which examined the United Kingdom's involvement in the Suez Crisis during the mid-1950s. Both won major British theatrical awards - "Boy" took home the Pearson Playwright Bursary," while "Empire" received the Catherine Johnson Award for Best Play - and was soon followed by "Little Madam" (2007), about the young Margaret Thatcher; "Sons of York" (2008), which looked at the impact of economic unrest on the city of Hull; "SuddenLossofDignity.Com" (2009), a collaboration with a quartet of fellow playwrights about the Conservative Party's attitude towards sexuality; and "The Man" (2010), which utilized a rotating cast of actors to address England's often punishing tax code. The acclaim afforded by these plays led to writing assignments for Graham on television series like "Prisoners' Wives" (BBC, 2012-2013), but theater remained his primary focus, and with his next play, "This House" (2012), he would score one of his most substantive triumphs. The drama, which observed the chaos of a hung Parliamentary election in 1974, won the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2013 and was later named Best Play of the Decade by Bloomsbury Publishing. During this period, Graham also worked on "Finding Neverland" (2014), a musical based on the life of author J.M. Barrie; the production was reworked several times before debuting at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2014 and then traveled to Broadway the following year for a successful run and national tour. After writing his first feature film, "X+Y" (2014), about an autistic math prodigy (Asa Butterfield) at the International Mathematical Olympiad, Graham would return to British politics with his next play, "The Vote" (2015), which took place at a London polling station on election night, and was broadcast live on More4 Live on the real election night of that year. His next television effort returned to the Parliamentary confusion of "This House" for the Channel 4 drama "Coalition" (2015). The made-for-TV film detailed the attempt to form a new government coalition in the wake of the hung vote, and its impact on the careers of Conservative Party Leader David Cameron and Labour Party chief Gordon Brown. It was followed by another major hit, "Ink," about Rupert Murdoch's takeover of The Sunnewspaper in 1969. It earned Graham his second Olivier Award, and reaped two Tony Awards for Featured Actor and Lighting (out of six nominations) when it transferred to Broadway in 2018. In the midst of his unqualified success, Graham remained exceptionally busy as a playwright and screenwriter, penning "Labour of Love" (2017), about an MP in his hometown of Nottingham; "Quiz" (2017), about a cheating scandal on the British version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" (ITV, 1998-2014, 2018- ), and "Brexit," with Benedict Cumberbatch as the chief orchestrator of the effort to remove Britain from the European Union.