As the centenary of Noel Coward's birth is reached, a spate of new Coward titles have been published in celebration of his life and work. Coward The Playwright
, while not exactly celebratory in nature, is invaluable for real aficionados--fans who have seen every play and can recite chunks of dialogue with the correct intonation--less expert but interested parties might be better served by a standard biography, such as Philip Hoare's Noel Coward
or My Life With Noel Coward
by Graham Payne.
Lahr's writing style is dense and wordy and is unfortunately somewhat difficult to follow. Assuming a great deal of prior knowledge on behalf of the reader, he jumps right into the serious stuff from chapter one. Despite its broad-based title Coward The Playwright is useful primarily--perhaps exclusively--to academics. John Lahr's intention--and it is one he valiantly succeeds in achieving--is to study Coward's theatrical legacy in minute detail. The recurrent themes and favourite tricks of Coward are compared and contrasted intelligently; his original wit is sharpened by Lahr's illumination of circumstance, dissected and analysed at length. Some biographical detail is included to explain Coward's choice of subjects and to chronologically chart the maturity of the work he produced but ultimately this is an admirably thorough study guide--no more, no less. --Helen Lamont
About the Author
Praised by the "New York Times Book Review "as "probably the most intelligent and insightful writer on the theater today," John Lahr has twice won the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism, most recently for his work at "The New Yorker, "where he has written about theater and popular culture since 1992. Mr. Lahr has written sixteen books, among them the novels "The Autograph Hound "(1973) and "Hot to Trot "(1974); "Light Fantastic: Adventures in Theater "(1996); "The Orton Diaries "(editor, 1996); "Notes on a Cowardly Lion: The Biography of Bert Lahr "(California, 2000); "Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilisation "(California, 2000); and "Prick Up Your Ears: The Biography of Joe Orton "(California, 2000).