Rising to New Hyt[ner]s

Anglophiles rejoice: British theater’s resident badass, The National’s Nicholas Hytner, gets the John Lahr treatment in this week’s New Yorker. The piece—unsurprisingly fun and dishy—is a thrill, but it also confirms the worst second-fiddle insecurities of stage-loving Americans, i.e., that the Brits really do have this whole “theatre” thing figured out. (C’mon—any country that manufactures an institution as endlessly brilliant as The National, not to mention the rest of the London scene, is pretty much unimpeachable.)

Read the full piece to get your theatrical salivary glands going, but here are a few takeaway quotes I took a shine to, as Sir Hytner would say.

Hytner is all about scale. Lahr writes, “To this day, Hytner does not like to stage plays about family situations, he has never directed Pinter or Chekhov and has mostly stayed away from twentieth-century realism. ‘I don’t respond to, and certainly would not like to direct, plays which involve an interior journey only,’ he told me.”

Theater is an alternative to the real family drama Hytner faced as a child: ” ‘What I do now, in part,’ he told me, ‘is to help create (if only temporarily) stable families, which can play happily with the most outlandish forms of emotional anarchy, all the too-hot-to-handle stuff. In the rehearsal room and in the theatre, there is nothing but relish for every kind of craziness, every grief, every danger, every cruelty, every joy. ‘ “

Queen Elizabeth is a War Horse fanatic: After meeting “Joey,” the puppet-star of the show, at a Royal Horse Artillery event, QE2 requested his “company for a private screening of Steven Spielberg’s film version of War Horse at Windsor Palace … The invitation was later rescinded when the event was changed, but the offer itself was news, a victory for the power of the dramatic imagination.”

photo credit: The Guardian

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Report from the Capital

Hear ye, hear ye! I come with word from the mainland!

London, that is. New York might flatter itself the center of the universe, but it’s the British First City that can lay true claim to that most exclusive of titles: Play Capitol.

A certain kind of play, that is – one that’s smart, sharp, political, thorough, current, historical (or at least aspires to be), and comes served in plummy, accented tones which cover all manner of sins.

The most exciting, anglophilia-inducing entrée of my recent trip to England was “London Road,” a new, verbatim musical playing the National’s Cottesloe Theatre. Its subject – the murder of five prostitutes – is conventional enough stuff (!), but it’s the telling of this tale that elicits those wonderful shivers signifying the arrival of the New.

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