Simpson, N F

Tagged: Author

(1919-2011) UK playwright, screenwriter and author whose relationship to conventional sf is tangential, though several of his plays employ Absurdist SF strategies, including his first, A Resounding Tinkle (performed 1 December 1957 Royal Court Theatre, London; 1958 chap), in which new governments are formed in response to door-to-door enquiries, and a suburban couple is forced to complain when the elephant they had ordered is the wrong size; and his most famous, One Way Pendulum (performed 14 December 1959 Theatre Royal, Brighton; 1960 chap), in which 100 "speak-your-weight" machines are taught to sing the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Georg Fredric Handel's Messiah (1741); this play was filmed as One Way Pendulum (1964) directed by Peter Yates. "The Hole" (first performed 2 April 1958 Royal Court Theatre, London; in The Hole and Other Plays and Sketches, coll 1964) is a fantasia of conflicting Perceptions of goings-on in the titular roadworks hole, fascinating the actors and invisible to the audience.

A novel, Harry Bleachbaker (1976), features much Satirical debate and bureaucratic procrastination regarding a man who has been drowning in the Mediterranean for some months, and the question of whether he should be rescued or at least provided with the solace of a piano. This is based on Simpson's play Was He Anyone? (first performed 5 July 1972 Royal Court Theatre, London; 1973 chap). It is typical of the author's calculated irrelevance and fondness for non-sequitur that the title character Bleachbaker is not the drownee, never appears and has only a remote connection with the story. Simpson is now recognized as a key influence upon 1960s UK Satire and on such anarchic comedy as Monty Python's Flying Circus. [JC/DRL]

Norman Frederick Simpson

born London: 29 January 1919

died Cornwall: 27 August 2011


  • A Resounding Tinkle: A Play in One Act (London: Samuel French, 1958) [play: chap: first performed 1 December 1957 Royal Court Theatre, London: pb/nonpictorial]
  • One Way Pendulum: A Farce in a New Dimension (London: Faber and Faber, 1960) [play: chap: first performed 14 December 1959 Theatre Royal, Brighton: hb/]
  • The Cresta Run (London: Faber and Faber, 1966) [play: chap: first performed 27 October 1965 Royal Court Theatre, London: hb/photographic]
  • Was He Anyone? (London: Faber and Faber, 1973) [play: chap: first performed 5 July 1972 Royal Court Theatre, London: pb/]
    • Harry Bleachbaker (London: Harrap, 1976) [novel based on the above: hb/photographic]
  • If So, Then Yes (London: Faber and Faber, 2010) [play: chap: first performed 7 September 2010 Jermyn Street Theatre, London: pb/photographic]



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