Balancing Acts: Behind the Scenes at the National Theatre by Nicholas Hytner - review by Libby Purves

Libby Purves

Lifting the Curtain

Balancing Acts: Behind the Scenes at the National Theatre

By

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Few of the National Theatre’s leaders have made such an impact as Nicholas Hytner, its artistic director from 2003 to 2015. His insistence on aiming for capacity audiences and sponsorship to make tickets cheaper was one revolution. Others – also to the credit of the National Theatre’s chief executive, Nick Starr – were NT Live, which saw the live broadcast of plays in cinemas, and transfers and tours making serious money. Yet in many ways Hytner is a traditional producer-director: for all his scholarship, he is a showman with a taste for big casts and big stages, eschewing black-box preciousness and admitting at times to ‘an inner voice that says “booooring!”’ In an early, daringly raunchy staging of Jerry Springer: The Opera, he approvingly cited the compere’s stamping introduction: ‘Have yourself a good time!’

We did have that good time, over twelve years of triumphs including War Horse, One Man, Two Guvnors, The History Boys, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and many resonant Shakespeare productions. This entertaining account of his years at the National Theatre, with reflections on his earlier

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