The enthralling, tumultuous behind-the-scenes story of Michael Blakemore's time at the National Theatre, publishing for the theatre's 50th anniversary.
In 1971, Michael Blakemore joined the National Theatre as Associate Director under Laurence Olivier. The National, still based at the Old Vic, was at a moment of transition awaiting the move to its vast new home on the South Bank. Relying on generous subsidy, it would need an extensive network of supporters in high places. Olivier, a scrupulous and brilliant autocrat from a previous generation, was not the man to deal with these political ramifications. His tenure began to unravel and, behind his back, Peter Hall was appointed to replace him in 1973. As in other aspects of British life, the ethos of public service, which Olivier espoused, was in retreat.
Having staged eight productions for the National, Blakemore found himself increasingly uncomfortable under Hall's regime. Stage Blood is the candid and at times painfully funny story of the events that led to his dramatic exit in 1976. He recalls the theatrical triumphs and flops, his volatile relationship with Olivier including directing him in Long Day's Journey into Night, the extravagant dinners in Hall's Barbican flat with Harold Pinter, Jonathan Miller and the other associates, the opening of the new building, and Blakemore's brave and misrepresented decision to speak out. He would not return to the National for fifteen years.
Michael Blakemore arrived in the UK from Australia in 1950. He spent fifteen years as an actor before directing at the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre. He became Associate Director of the National Theatre under Olivier, and directed him in, amongst others, Long Day's Journey into Night. He has directed new work by dramatists as diverse as Arthur Miller, Peter Nichols, Michael Frayn, David Hare, Peter Schaffer, Don DeLillo, Woody Allen and David Mamet. At the 2000 Tony Awards he won an unprecedented double as Best Director of both a play, Copenhagen, and a musical, Kiss Me Kate. He has written and directed two films, and is the author of the novel, Next Season. His memoir, Arguments with England finishes where Stage Blood begins.
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