Abi Morgan

Abi Morgan

Born in England, Abi Morgan hailed from a family well acquainted with the performing arts. Her father, Gareth Morgan, was an actor, director and producer, while her mother, Pat England, also performed on stage and in film. When her parents separated, she traveled with England, who was working on the repertory theater circuit; as a result, the girl attended no less than seven different schools. While a student at the University of Exeter, Morgan seriously considered an acting career herself, but after a turn in a university play, she was discouraged by her mother and told by her tutor that she was "too short." A monologue Morgan composed met with a more positive response, so she concentrated instead on writing, with her play "Skinned" debuting in 1998. The heartening feedback from that venture engendered subsequent productions, including "Sleeping Around" (1998), "Fast Food" (1999), "Splendour" (2000), "Tender" (2001) and "Tiny Dynamite" (2001). By that point, Morgan had thoroughly demonstrated her credentials, and "Tender" earned her a Laurence Olivier Theatre Award nomination for the Most Promising Playwright of 2001. Morgan's first work produced outside the theater came in 1998, with two episodes of the long running dramatic series "Peak Practice" (ITV, 1993-2002) and the made-for-TV movies "My Fragile Heart" (ITV, 2000) and "Murder" (BBC, 2002). However, it was the British/Canadian co-production "Sex Traffic" (Channel 4/CBC, 2004) that really got Morgan noticed. A potent look at Eastern European women forced into prostitution, "Sex Traffic" was a major critical success, winning eight BAFTA TV awards. While the title suggested the lowbrow likes of something that would run on SyFy Channel, the HBO/BBC miniseries "Tsunami: The Aftermath" (2006) was an intelligent, dramatic look at a varied group of residents and vacationers in Thailand and what they faced following the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that devastated sections of that country in 2004. Morgan's script offered multi-layered characters, though some reviewers found the production long-winded and only moderately effective. Morgan earned her first theatrical feature credit when she collaborated with Laura Jones to adapt Monica Ali's best-selling novel "Brick Lane" (2007), the story of a Bengali girl who is sent to London as part of an arranged marriage to a husband who is kind, but still completely unsuitable for her. Morgan had previous experience penning this sort of story via the three-part BBC drama series "Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee" (2005), which was set in Britain's Indian community and revolved around the lives of three women and their quest for happiness. Part of "Brick Lane" was set after the 9/11 attacks and the shooting of the film was interrupted by Muslim protests, with the production then forced to relocate. The Muslim community figured prominently in "White Girl" (BBC, 2008), which told of a teenager from a dysfunctional family who converts to Islam after finding comfort in the example set by her neighbors and classmates in a predominantly Muslim area of Bradford, a culturally divided city in Northern England. Morgan's screenplay thoughtfully addressed the topics of race and religion, while also telling a compelling story about a daughter and the changes she brings about in her alcoholic mother.Critics were somewhat less kind to Morgan's teleplay for "Royal Wedding" (BBC, 2010), which used a street party staged by a Welsh town to honor the 1981 marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer as the focal point of its look at the life of a young, working-class woman who decides to end her unhappy marriage. In addition to her television work, Morgan continued to write for the stage with productions like the youth-oriented "Monster Mum" (2005) and "Fugee" (2008), and "The Night is Darkest Before the Dawn" (2009). The year 2011 proved to be a very fruitful one for Morgan in three different mediums. Chosen to help improve the quality of the BBC's dramas, she wrote and served as executive producer of "The Hour" (BBC, 2011-13), a 12-part series that was described by some as Britain's answer to the AMC hit "Mad Men" (2007-15). Set in 1956, it concerned the individuals behind the scenes of the title program, a topical BBC news series that sought to rebel against the government strictures that held the media in check. Morgan intentionally worked in dialogue that reflected a modern sensibility, but this indulgence did not extend to the program's female protagonist, who was based on an actual woman from the era who held her own as a producer in that male dominated network. A critical and ratings success, the BBC renewed the program for a second season with Morgan and the original cast returning.On the motion picture front, Morgan and director Steve McQueen originally conceived "Shame" (2011) as a look at how the Internet can be a seductive, addictive force. Their screenplay instead evolved into a look at sexual compulsion and outright addiction as personified by a seemingly together New York City businessman (Michael Fassbender) who spends almost every spare minute either hooking up for anonymous sex or looking at online pornography. In preparation, Morgan interviewed sex addicts and mental health experts, and came up with a gripping look at a man apparently incapable of meaningful human connection who is eventually forced by circumstances to address his behaviour. The biopic "The Iron Lady" (2011) showcased Meryl Streep in a tour-de-force performance as Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister who was revered and detested in seemingly equal measure. Morgan stated that she was inspired to undertake the project by the notion of power gained and lost, the inherent pressures that came with such responsibility, and her thoughts about what Thatcher's life must have been like following her political career. The film met with mostly favourable critical response, but some British conservatives deemed it "intrusive and unfair" and felt the film dwelled too much on the dementia Thatcher suffered from in later years. Finally, a pair of Morgan's plays also debuted. "27" looked at how it is possible for science and religious faith to have parallels, while "Lovesong" told of the memories that ensued for an aging couple in the final week of their relationship.By John Charles