Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The Royal Court Theatre Inside Out

I’ve just finished reading The Royal Court Theatre Inside Out by Ruth Little and Emily McLaughlin, which was first published last year.

The book is divided up into chapters dealing with each or the artistic director’s tenures, starting with George Devine and finishing with Ian Rickson. It draws on other books that have been written about the theatre, but also contains interviews with many of those who have worked there over the years. These interviews are never less than informative and interesting. Among many anecdotes and assessments, a couple of stories told by Kenneth Cranham particularly stood out for me and I wondered why he hasn’t yet written a memoir of some sort.

The Royal Court Theatre Inside Out is a fascinating book to dip in to for many reasons. It was interesting to be reminded of works such as Alan Brown’s Wheelchair Willie and Barrie Keefe’s Sus. I was a bit disappointed, though, that some things I’d seen weren’t covered at all - C.P. Lee’s Sleak a ‘snuff rock musical’ performed by Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias for instance. Although if everything that had ever played at the Royal Court had been included, this would have soon become a multi-volume work.

There is also a very useful appendix containing a chronological list all the Theatre’s productions from 1955’s The Mulberry Bush to 2007’s The Seagull. A pedant might complain that it would have been nice to have dates, cast lists and whether the play was performed Upstairs or in the main house – but that would probably be a little ungenerous. Altogether this is a book to be enjoyed by anyone interested in the theatre of the past fifty years and the central part played in this history by the Royal Court.

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