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Stage Blood: Five tempestuous years in the early life of the National Theatre Hardcover – 16 Sep 2013

32 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (16 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571241379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571241378
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.1 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 286,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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

Stage Blood: Five tempestuous years in the early life of the National Theatre, by Michael Blakemore, is the enthralling, tumultuous behind-the-scenes story of Blakemore's time at the National Theatre, published for the theatre's fiftieth anniversary.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John on 27 Dec. 2013
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stewart Trotter on 10 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover
'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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Weston on 13 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover
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 By Criticus on 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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
i COULD NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN. FOR ANY ONE WITH A SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE THEATRE, AND IN PARTICULAR OF THE ERA OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE NATIONAL THEATRE- , THIS IS NOT TO BE MISSED. THE WRITING IS OUTSTANDING (THE TERM "BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN" HAS LOST ITS SIGNIFICANCE SINCE IT IS USED ABOUT EVERY THREE LINES IN ANY REVIEW). THE "INSIDE STORY AND INFIGHTING OF THE TIME IS IRRESISTIBLE, BUT WHAT I PARTICULARLY ADMIRED WAS THE BALANCE THE WRITER ACHIEVES BETWEEN PROFESSIONAL ASSESSMENT AND PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT WHEN HE MIGHT WELL HAVE BEEN TEMPTED SIMPLY TO PRESENT THE LATTER. I HAVE INSTANTLY ORDERED TWO MORE OF MICHAEL BLAKEMORE'S BOOKS.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
It's the story of the creation of the National Theatre. Laurence Olivier set the whole theatre enterprise in motion when he was the director in its first home at the Old Vic. It is about several highly talented men, Olivier himself, hugely talented, leading an ensemble of great players. He is followed by one of the most extraordinary men of the 20th century, Peter Hall. A man prodigiously talented with a huge appetite for food and the opposite sex. Could anyone else have got this off the ground but these two remarkable men
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