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Customer reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars

on 30 May 2017
really interesting book , read it in a couple of days. It not just the artistic side of things, will the play put bums on seats is a major consideration. The only thing I didn't like was the use of initials, I knew or could work out most of them but some were a mystery. I understand that the actors at the NT get paid Equity minimum and even have to pay to park there. They manage to get the big names in because of a long rehearsal time, far longer than most theatres, and a reputation for a good show. Some details of a few internal conflicts so you need to manage a huge staff as well as be a financial planner, and theatre director. The book was set in the time when the RSC were at Barbican and there seems to be a bit of rivalry between the two houses.
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Does the concept of 'riveting bedtime read' sound contradictory? Each half-page-or-so snippet provides much to ponder. People are identified in the text as they appear, but it would have been nice to have a dramatis personae by first name at the beginning. Germaine Greer is distinguished by being the only person identified uniquely by her first name. She strode the age like a colossus
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on 26 December 2012
I persuaded my husband to buy me this for Christmas; thankfully, I developed a cold Christmas Day evening and had a perfect excuse to retire to bed to nurse my cold and read this fascinating book.
It manages the rare trick of giving a whole lot of insider gossip without descending into mere bitchiness, and given the turbulent times at the National, there must have been huge temptation.
The bitchiest thing in the book is probably Mark Lawson's often-quoted comment on Ian Holm's naked apppearance, which he says doesn't seem to bother Sir Ian. Well, if you read Ian Holm's autobiography - oh yes, it mattered very much indeed!
And of course there are going to be names dropped like litter - after all, he met everyone in the world of theatre and a substantial number of politicians as well.
That may be the book's strength; the precision with which he details the distaste which the right wing of politics has for the the arts in general, and theatre in particular.
It's also remarkably enlightening on how someone hired for his skills as a director is shoe-horned into being an administrator, attending scores of meetings, while trying to research possible productions at the same time. I read the book in less than 24 hours; I loved it.
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on 22 October 2017
A great read from a master of the theatre. Highly recommended. I loved his comment that it was a pity that performers couldn't be as little interested in the opinions of critics as birds are indifferent to ornithologists!
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on 11 September 2017
Fascinating insight into work of national theatre by its second director. Not as frank as Peter Hall but pretty honest record of the clashes between big names in theatre. Fans of the National will love it.
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on 25 June 2013
Moving, detailed and eye opening account of the daily trials and tribulations in the life of the NT Director - which appears to be Heaven and Hell combined. Wonderfully self-deprecating accounts of triumph and disaster - with some brilliant vignettes of fellow workers and stars. I really loved it.
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on 7 August 2006
This is a magnificent, utterly absorbing book.

Not only does it give you a fascinating insight into the mind and working practices of one of the most brilliant theatre directors, but it shows the frustrations (sometimes misery) and complications of running an enormous organisation, while doing another job in parallel.

He tells (with absolute honesty) the story of the ten years in which he ran The National Theatre: the rehearsals, the first nights, the notices (good and bad)- and more than that, the meetings, the people and the politics (quite literally: Blair, Thatcher, Major and Kinnock are all here, as well as the more familiar theatrical greats such as Fiona Shaw, Deborah Warner, Alan Bennett, David Hare, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench).

What is striking is how recognisable Eyre's situation seems. On one hand, this is a unique account: how many of us have ever run the country's largest theatre? On the other, this is a story of a man whose great skill in one area - directing theatre - leads him into doing a job for which he has little training: running a huge organisation. Anyone who has got to the top of their profession, and then suddenly had "management" thrust upon them will recognise the frustrations, the politics and the draining demands made.

But this is an exhilarating book, for all its public and private disappointments, it is also full of triumphs - as any account that includes Eyre's "Guys and Dolls", " Amy's View". "David Hare Trilogy", "John Gabriel Borkman" and "King Lear" (to name but a few) would have to be.
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on 1 March 2014
A brilliant informative piece of theatrical history. The insight into the workings of the National Theatre from the man behind the scenes is not only delightful but imperative reading for anyone interested in mounting theatrical productions, whether in the West End or in rep around the country. Eyre writes with an ease, a sense of humour and a self-deprecating style that is irresistible. His compassion for, his love and loyalty to both the theatre and his Labour ideals shine through on every page. He makes all the great actors sound human, like people we would want to share a drink with, discuss our next projects with, invite into our homes. Eyre has the knack of making every diary entry intelligent, funny and poignant. He is also very much a family man, obviously devoted to his wife and daughter and not shy to delve into the complex relationship with his dying father.
A very worthwhile read. I hope Eyre is currently penning the next installment - life after the National.
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on 12 March 2009
This is a wonderful description of life inside a publicly subsidised bubble. It is full of right on opinions shared by the chattering classes which confirm the old definition of a liberal as someone who hates his own country. It has some very good jokes and theatrical anecdotes and a sharp degree of bitchiness about other art forms --"...the world of opera:self important and irredemiably elitist." Sounds like a good description of the National Theatre!
What other head of an organisation could have so many self admitted poor results and still keep his job. Oh yes, one whose work was heavily subsidised by those who neither saw nor cared about his business.
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