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Stage Blood: Five tempestuous years in the early life of the National Theatre Hardcover – 16 Sep 2013
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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)
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.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
Ho hum. Oddly for something so constricted in time and space, this lacks the intensity of Arguments with England, its rivetting predecessor, which retails his life up to this point. Plainly all the NT/Larry buffs who rate Blood so highly have not read Arguments (just 5 reviews!), immeasurably its superior and which, having finished, one is consumed with the desire to read again. So good I ordered the hardback. Try it
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.Read more ›
For all his caprice and unpredictability, Olivier is clearly the hero, with Hall as the nemesis who squandered Olivier's heritage and turned the National into a vehicle for his own lust for power and money. Blakemore is keen to stress Hall's strengths and talents, which only helps disarm the reader and makes the barbs more biting. He attacks Hall's reputation as the 'founder' of the Royal Shakespeare Company, claiming he renamed and developed an existing institution (while giving credit to Hall for what he did) and that the achievements of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre and its luminaries such as Anthony Quayle "disappeared down Hall's gullet".
Of course it should all be taken with a pinch of salt, but so much of Britain's theatrical history has been cast in the version told by Hall (Wikipedia says he founded the RSC; the RSC itself does not) that some balance doesn't go amiss, even if Blakemore is hardly more objective than Hall.
One criticism is the pictures: all the photos are from play rehearsals, which doesn't reflect the book at all. Photos of the main characters in the book would have been useful, but none of them are there except Blakemore and Olivier (in rehearsals, naturally). What about Dexter and Tynan? Surely Peter Hall was worth depicting?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Another small birthday present for actor son, who was very pleased with itPublished 20 months ago by Shirley Stevens
As the title suggests, there is some blood spilt over the five years, and few come out of the internal struggles without a stain.Published on 7 April 2015 by A. Jones
Quite a good read if you are interested in the National Theatre in the 1970's and the machinations of Peter Hall.Published on 31 Mar. 2015 by Jane Burgess
An excellent read, beautifully written and a fascinating insight behind the scenes of theatre land, the egos, the creativity, the money, the politics.
An excellent and revealing read - especially recommended for anyone one in the theatre world!Published on 9 Mar. 2015 by Peter Ellis Jones
excellent book and far more engaging than I feared it might bePublished on 4 Mar. 2015 by Matt Moxon