If there were such a role as ghost writer to the nation's conscience, then Adrian Mitchell would be a prime contender to fill it. He has had a prolific career as a playwright for theatre and television, as a poet, novelist, and literary revolutionary, yet his reputation has not solidified into an easily recognisable shape. Part of an explanation for this can be found in the theatrical company he has kept. Over the years his work has been produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, directed by Peter Brook, and at the National Theatre, directed by Peter Hall; he has had shows staged at other London Theatres, as well as in regional repertory theatres; and he has worked a good deal with experimental performance companies such as Foco Novo and Welfare State International, and sometimes with children's companies such as the Unicorn Theatre His work has also been broadcast on the major national channels of the media. Since the mid-sixties, when he had a huge success as the first post-war performance poet, there has hardly been a year when he has not had at least one work, and sometimes several, on the stages of Britain.
This range of producers and high productivity signal both a remarkable adaptability and a spirit of generosity, because rather than slotting into an established niche in the scene of British post-war culture - where probably, for example, he could easily have become a highly successful lyricist in the Cameron Mackintosh stable -he has often chosen to inhabit the in-between worlds of collaboration, adaptation, translation. This creative inclination is matched by the formal adventurousness of his plays and screenplay, which combine populist conventions with a celebration of anarchic individualism and the desire to tell a good tale well with an impish delight in teasing the audience through unexpected shifts of register. So his theatrical work resists easy classification in its sometimes wild mixing of genres and its penchant for wrenching comedy out of horror, human warmth out of the most damning scenes of late-twentieth century despair. In reaction to this messy aesthetic anarchism, the critical establishment has tended to identify Mitchell mainly by his impressive performance as a poet, especially through his public readings: he is the British father of today's performance poets. But this conventional view misses something of the main point of his career as revealed by his playwriting: for he has created a unique role as well-liked agent provocateur, as an up-beat entertainer who deals with the nastier sides of life, a genial dream-weaver who never pulls his punches. As a highly talented ghost writer of scenarios for the Western - and particularly British - psyche, Adrian Mitchell has been nothing if not radical.
'Adrian Mitchell is no more naïve than Stevie Smith, but like her he has the innocence of his own experience. … real inner freedom and the courage of his own music. Among all the voices of the Court, a voice as welcome as Lear's fool….Humour that can stick deep and stay funny.'
- TED HUGHES.
'This is Adrian Mitchell, the British Mayakovsky' - KENNETH TYNAN.
'Nobody else writes like him. And it is becoming more and more evident that his achievement endures….Nobody has ever departed with such language for such a destination…..Mitchell is a joker, a lyrics writer, a word-spinner, an epigrammist, a man of passion and imagination….Against the present British state he opposes a kind of revolutionary populism, bawdiness, wit and the tenderness sometimes to be found between animals.' - JOHN BERGER.
'Joyous, acrid and demotic tumbling lyricist Pied Piper determinedly singing us away from catastrophe.' - ANGELA CARTER.
'Adrian Mitchell's poetry for children is as marvellous as his work for adults. Humorous, thoughtful, provocative, bang-on for kids entering the 21st century.' - BRIAN PATTEN.
'In the world of verse for children nobody has produced more surprising verse or more genuinely inspired fun than Adrian Mitchell.' - TED HUGHES.
AND LITTLE RICHARD SAYS: 'When I sing my songs you can't sit still, your big toe shoot up in your boot!'