Irving Wardle

John Irving Wardle (born 20 July 1929) is an English writer and theatre critic.[1]

Irving Wardle
Irving Wardle, 22 April 2010
Irving Wardle, 22 April 2010
BornJohn Irving Wardle
(1929-07-20) 20 July 1929 (age 92)
Manchester, UK
GenreTheatre criticism
Spouse1 Joan Notkin (m.dis); 2 Fay Vivian Crowder (m.dis); 3 Elizabeth Grist


Wardle was born on 20 July 1929 in Manchester, Lancashire, the son of John Wardle and his wife Nellie (Partington). His father was drama critic on the Bolton Evening News, and a regular performer at the Bolton Little Theatre. Wardle was educated at Bolton School, Wadham College Oxford and the Royal College of Music.[2] While at Oxford, Wardle participated in theatre, performing in a production of The Tempest alongside the actors Nigel Davenport and Jack May, the future directors John Schlesinger and Bill Gaskill, and Mary Moore, the future principal of St Hilda's College, Oxford.[3]

Wardle's early appointments included an anonymous fortnightly review spot on the Bolton Evening News, beginning in 1958.[4] He worked as a sub-editor on The Times Literary Supplement, 1956–; as deputy theatre critic (to Kenneth Tynan) on The Observer,[4] 1959–63; drama critic for The Times 1963–89;[1][5] editor of Gambit[6] 1973–75; theatre critic for The Independent on Sunday 1989–95.[7] More recently he has written articles for magazines such as Prospect[8] and The Oldie.

He has published two books; a biography The Theatres of George Devine[9] (Jonathan Cape, 1978) and Theatre Criticism (Routledge, 1992).[10] His first play, The Houseboy, was performed at the Open Space Theatre in 1973.[11] The play is semi-autobiographical, based on Wardle's experience from a part-time job washing dishes at a London guest house. The production was directed by Charles Marowitz and the cast included Timothy West. A television production was made for ITV's Playhouse season and screened on 3 July 1982, directed by Christopher Hodson. The cast was Stephen Garlick, Geoffrey Palmer, Richard Pasco and Earl Rhodes.[12]

He was honoured in 2004 at the Cairo International Festival of Experimental Theatre.[13][14] Wardle was a close friend of the writer Harold Pinter, for whose work he coined the phrase "comedies of menace".[15] The two met after Wardle reviewed Pinter's "The Birthday Party" in 1958, and an impressed Pinter wrote to compliment him on his critical sensibility.[4]


  1. ^ a b Coveney, Michael (30 October 2005). "Voices Off". The Guardian. London.
  2. ^ Who's Who in the Theatre, 17th edition, Gale (1981)
  3. ^ "Obituary:Charles Hodgson". The Times. London. 18 January 2007.
  4. ^ a b c Wardle, Irving (Autumn 2009). "Old friends". Intelligent Life.
  5. ^ "Osborne faces punch-up". Montreal Gazette. 23 June 1966.
  6. ^ Woolland, Brian (2003). Jonsonians: living traditions. Ashgate. p. 1. ISBN 0-7546-0610-4.
  7. ^ Cassidy, Suzanne (5 November 1991). "Miller play divides the critics in London". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Wardle, Irving (December 1998). "Late night in Lviv". Prospect (36).
  9. ^ "The Chicago Conspiracy". Swans. June 2008.
  10. ^ Wardle, Irving (1992). Theatre Criticism. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-415-03181-8.
  11. ^ Young, Toby (2 March 2008). "Nicholas de Jongh sets himself up for a dramatic fall". Independent on Sunday. London.
  12. ^ "ITV PLAYHOUSE: The HOUSEBOY". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 25 January 2009. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  13. ^ Selaiha, Nehad (16–22 September 2004). "Back on the merry-go-round". Al-Ahram (708). Archived from the original on 8 August 2009. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  14. ^ Selaiha, Nehad (23–29 September 2004). "What to expect of CIFET 2004". Al-Ahram (709). Archived from the original on 27 July 2009. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  15. ^ "Harold Pinter". The Guardian. London. 12 June 2008.