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Stage Blood: Five tempestuous years in the early life of the National Theatre

Stage Blood: Five tempestuous years in the early life of the National Theatre [Kindle Edition]

Michael Blakemore
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Product Description


Warm, wise, and even sternly moralistic ... Theatre is evanescent, yet it can provide us with experiences so intense that we gratefully retain them for the rest of our lives. Memory compulsively preserves ancient grudges; more importantly, as Blakemore demonstrates, it is the impregnable archive of our affections. (Peter Conrad, The Observer)

[Blakemore] is a needle-sharp observer of the life of the theatre, both on and off stage, and his account of Olivier, as actor, company leader and potentate, during the extraordinary sunset of his career at the National, is masterly and moving ... Blakemore's portrait of Hall, a man to whose kindness and wisdom many of us can testify, as a giant python, swallowing and slowly digesting organisations, projects, people, is unforgettable; a character out of Balzac or Dickens ... A most unusual book indeed; one whose scope goes far beyond the theatre, though it is a landmark in writing about the life of the stage. (Simon Callow, Guardian)

Masterly ... Michael Blakemore is a writer of exceptional gifts. Heretical though it may be, I cannot help wishing that he would shut the stage-door behind him for a while and concentrate instead on the next book. (Selina Hastings, The Spectator)

Anyone who enjoys theatre, politics and good storytelling will love Stage Blood ... his sharply observed account of life with Olivier (and those who sought to overthrow him) is an unputdownable joy. (Gyles Brandreth, Mail on Sunday Books of the Year)

Stage Blood is the best theater book I've read since, well, Blakemore's equally enthralling 2004 memoir, Arguments with England. Both deserve a place of prominence on your shelf. (Michael Riedel, New York Post)

A vivid, personal account of a fascinating period in British theatre. (Financial Times)

With its pulpy title and lurid, crime thriller-style jacket, it promises salacious details and largely delivers ... tremendous fun. (Metro)

Book Description

The enthralling, tumultuous behind-the-scenes story of Michael Blakemore's time at the National Theatre, publishing for the theatre's 50th anniversary.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 740 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber Plays (7 Nov 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E78HFAO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #128,814 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saying what you mean.... 10 Oct 2013
'Stage Blood' is a page-turner. But I think Michael Blakemore should come out and say what he REALLY thinks about Peter Hall.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is This A Dagger . . ? 27 Dec 2013
By John
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It is rare that I read a book from cover to cover at virtually one sitting. `Stage Blood' is an exception. Splendidly and concisely written, it tells mostly of Blakemore's experiences at the new National Theatre, the behind-the-scenes dramas that unfolded as the dramas on stage were being created.

He tellingly reveals the fragility of a life in the theatre where a period of success is all but certain to be followed by failure, as was to happen to him after his own string of successes including "Long Day's Journey into Night". Equally revealing are his insights into the entire production process - from the decision to select a particular play through the appointment of actors and designers, the amount of detail a director prepares in advance vis-a-vis the give and take with the actors in the rehearsal studio, the often nerve-wracking crises that arise - as with Tom Stoppard's "Jumpers" and Ken Tynan's part in re-shaping a good deal of the work between first preview and opening night, thereby turning a near-disaster into a triumph.

The book has an honesty which makes it an utterly believable account. In its pages, the author fleshes out characters we have all heard about - the young, near-alcoholic Antony Hopkins, Diana Rigg, the wonderful Denis Quilley, Kenneth Tynan, Harold Pinter and many more. Laurence Olivier comes in for unstinting praise as the finest actor of his generation and the only one who could have pulled together the National Theatre project. Yet his insecurities, unpredictability and manipulating side are fully illustrated, as is the dignity which he exhibited in the face of the shameful manner of his replacement by Peter Hall.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for every aspiring actor or director 13 Oct 2013
This is a bitingly honest account of some of the great productions in the early days of the National Theatre, at times you are almost back in the rehearsal room of fifty years ago. The giants - Olivier, Tynan, Dexter are vividly brought to life - together with the back stabbing and betrayal of lesser men.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 26 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A really good antidote to the glowing accounts of Olivier and Peter Hall. Maybe he goes beyond the boundaries of good taste but I loved it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect title for a perfect book 3 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A marvellously theatrical picture of life in the early days of the National, with Peter Hall as the smiling villain, Laurence Olivier as the adorable but devious hero, and Michael Blakemore as the constant observer. Beautifully written, constantly illuminating, it is at once one of the great books about the stage, often very funny, with the birth of the National's Long Day's Journey into Night as its superbly sustained centrepiece. Olivier is vividly, and very movingly, depicted. So too - though I cannot say movingly - is the rascal of the story, John Dexter, who had the habit, expertly conveyed, of speaking of himself in the third person. I thought he was a terrible opera director (not a subject Blakemore touches on) but clearly in his element in spoken drama. A book that revives the long defunct Kenneth Tynan tradition, this is a page-turner of the choicest sort - and Tynan himself, I am happy to say, comes out of it well. Conrad Wilson
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5.0 out of 5 stars Startlingly honest 14 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this after the hugely enjoyable National Theatre Story (Daniel Rosenthal). It was nice to focus on on those early years. Michael Blakemore writes superbly. I get the feeling he was been waiting a long time to get this off his chest but I admire his bravery in standing up for what be believed was best for the NT and I think he was right. The Peter Hall years were the NT's low point when you compare him to any of his successors. It is the most honest account of the NT I have come across, and Blakemore is generous in praising the productions and relationships that were worthy. A must read if you are even only an occasional visitor to the NT.
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5.0 out of 5 stars re-title Bad Blood 14 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is best read in conjunction with the diaries of Peter Hall and Peter Nichols. Blakemore is still sick as a parrot that he was
not made head of the National Theatre-but agrees he has no interest in admin and only likes his own projects with his favourite
plays and writers. He comes over as an Australian Neil from the Young Ones-still bitter over whose idea it was to do the full
un-cut Hamlet and presenting his 20-page document listing the NT's failings and his personal grievances 2 days after the
State opening. I think Kenneth Tynan was a trouble-maker who persuaded an ailing Olivier to co-opt the most unlikely pair-
Blakemore and Jonathan Miller and sat back to watch the fur fly. Though he still seems to hate Hall it is the Blakemore
productions which are available to buy through Amazon-none of the televised Peter Hall era successes-No Man's Land,Bedroom
Farce,The Double Dealer and On The Razzle are available to buy -so Michael Blakemore has the last laugh.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent piece of theatre history 28 April 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As other reviewers have said, this book is unputdownable. I read the last third in one sitting because I just had to know how the story ends. The account of the last days of the Olivier regime and the changes wrought by Peter Hall is all the more powerful for being written with the calmness that comes from forty years of thinking about them. Blakemore is a big name himself in theatre, and he is writing about some of the biggest of them all - from Olivier downwards. Given the importance of these formative years at the NT, which to a large extent set a pattern for subsidised companies ever since, this is a major work of theatre history. The fact that it is beautifully written is a huge added bonus.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
I felt Michael Blakemore was obsessed about being unjustly sacked from The National Theatre by Peter Hall and still very angry about it and Peter Hall. Read more
Published 3 months ago by GREYHOUND
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind the scenes at the national
This is a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes at the National Theatre. Elegantly written and very readable.
Greed ,ambition, plotting and human fraility are all here.
Published 4 months ago by s clarke
5.0 out of 5 stars Indiscrete at times
Ideal for those, like me, who practise theatre and enjoy appreciating how it is constructed from a bare platform and pieces of film flam. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Antony Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars the national theatre -warts and all
Published 5 months ago by Yvonne E. Hands
5.0 out of 5 stars a brillant and fascinating account of the National Theatre with all...
because the book is so interesting and well written,and it is very important for the public to know about Peter Hall was up to behind the scenes and how ambitious and ruthless he... Read more
Published 6 months ago by gillie longdon
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick delivery at Christmas
Arrived very quickly to huge relief as problem with credit card but still got my order promptly.
I was giving it to someone as a present so cannot comment on the book itself... Read more
Published 7 months ago by lghlady
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favourite Biography of the Year
Several reviewers have quite rightly mentioned that this book is a must for anyone with an interest in the theatre, but in spite of being one of the great unwashed who has never... Read more
Published 7 months ago by The Man from the Ministry
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story of a Tyrant
I found this book almost impossible to put down. Anyone as involved in theatregoing as I was back in the 60/70s will feel the same. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mr. J. N. Plant
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