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Balancing Acts: Behind the Scenes at the National Theatre Hardcover – 27 Apr 2017

4.4 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (27 April 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781910702895
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910702895
  • ASIN: 1910702897
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"A tremendous book about life in the theatre ― and theatre, and life. Honest, shrewd and heartfelt. A classic of its kind." (William Boyd)

"Witty, waspish, and extraordinarily wise, it comes as no surprise to discover that Nick Hytner is every bit as good a writer as he is a director. Part fascinating memoir, part brilliant guidebook, Balancing Acts is also a record of how one man challenged and changed the way theatre is perceived in the UK, and with a few brilliant strokes – £10 tickets, live cinema broadcasts, and a dazzlingly inventive and brilliant repertory – created the first great theatre of the twenty-first century. For his description of what went into that quiet revolution, and for many other reasons, this wonderful book is essential reading." (Sam Mendes)

"As the record of a great theatre dealing fully and richly with the past and finding new ways of holding a glass up to the present, it’s incomparably interesting... This book is immensely readable, full of vivid anecdotes, and rich with an intimate understanding of drama both classic and modern. I loved it, and I’m sure it will do very well." (Philip Pullman)

"Nicholas Hytner gives a riveting account of his time at the National Theatre. “Nothing makes me happier” he writes “than to throw a party and sit on the edge of it.” It was a party, often a triumphant one, but he was at the heart of it. As was someone else: Shakespeare, about whom he writes superbly. Speaking for myself I’ve never had so much fun as working with Nicholas Hytner. This lovely book explains why." (Alan Bennett)

"Witty and entertaining, [Hytner] has an ability to be serious without being portentous, and he’s able to tell a good story … Balancing Acts is both history and illumination … You don’t have to be interested in theatre or even in culture to enjoy this book … But if you do happen to be interested in one of the few organisations in Britain that actually achieves what it’s supposed to … then you’ll be delighted. What’s more, in the account of Hytner’s directing at least six Shakespeare plays … you’ll find yourself given a masterclass." (Richard Eyre Evening Standard)

"[Balancing Acts] shows that [Hytner] can write extremely well. It is fuelled by the same clarity and intellectual pizzazz that are the hallmarks of his productions… It shows so many of Hytner’s virtues: his unfashionable appreciation of the intelligence of actors, his boundless fascination with Shakespeare, his belief in the magical power of theatre… It’s a wonderful book: stimulating, intelligent, gossipy, heartfelt, affectionate, honest and, perhaps above all, fun." (Craig Brown Mail on Sunday)

"Vivid, engaging, alive with anecdotes and continually invigorated by ideas." (John Carey Sunday Times)

"Hytner digs up plenty of absorbing material, reminding us that running a major arts organisation is a high-wire performance that features the continual risk of career-ending injury… It should be read not simply by anyone who has an interest in British theatre, but anyone interested in that oldest of questions: how you make art that sells... Engagingly open... astute and unsentimental... His insights on Shakespeare and Bennett are worth the price of the book alone." (Andrew Dickson Guardian)

"The book is what you might describe as a safe space for those who maintain, as I do, a deep-seated fear of theatrical memoirs … For one thing, there is his modesty … For another, there is his willingness, when necessary, to send up the theatre. … Balancing Acts reminds the reader, almost inadvertently, of the astonishing success the National Theatre enjoyed during the period he ran it … His book isn’t gossipy, but it is revealing." (Rachel Cooke Observer)

"Revelatory … full of anecdotes about the terrifying art of bringing a play alive, and full of insight about the sheer daredevil tightrope act that running the National Theatre involves … A vital reminder both of what theatre can do – and what is at stake if we take it for granted." (Sarah Crompton What’s On Stage)

About the Author

Nicholas Hytner was director of the National Theatre from 2003 to 2015, where he directed plays by – among many others – Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Alan Bennett and Richard Bean and produced more than two hundred different shows. He brought in a new community of artists, introduced National Theatre Live cinema broadcasts around the world, and established £10 ticket seasons which – by radically reducing ticket prices – filled the National with large new audiences. Before running the National, he worked widely in the West End and on Broadway; and in opera – in London, Paris, Munich and New York. His films include The Madness of King George, The History Boys, The Lady in the Van, and The Crucible with Daniel Day-Lewis. The Bridge Theatre, the London home of the new company he has formed with Nick Starr, opens in 2017.

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