A celebrated contemporary playwright and screenwriter rehearses his boyhood, early career, and the stumbles and bumbles of his personal life.
Hare, born in 1947 into a modest English seaside life (his father was an often absent merchant seaman), writes early about the boyhood thrill he felt at getting lost. The thrill seems to have lingered. He would later lose himself in self-doubt, in an extramarital affair with actress Kate Nelligan (an affair that rose, then sank, then rose and sank again), and in attempts to understand the enduring effects his parents’ behavior had on him. Readers who know Hare’s unique stage works will be surprised by the conventional and sturdily chronological nature of his memoir. He begins in boyhood and marches us through his school experiences (he did well and ended up at Cambridge) and his reading habits, declaring proudly, “Even as a child, J.M. Barrie and Lewis Carroll meant nothing to me, and they mean less today….I have been Hobbit-hating from Day One.” He describes as “savage” the social life at prep school and admits he was “a nasty little boy.” Most of his text, though, deals with his early experiences in the theater. He began doing puppet shows, spent some time selling vacuum cleaners door to door (unsuccessfully), and then gave acting a go but soon realized his theatrical talents lay elsewhere. He segued into directing, then writing, and more or less lucked into a position at the Royal Court Theatre, a position that would lead to many projects for him—successes and failures of all sorts. Hare does display a refreshing candor about his screw-ups and even his cruelties, personally and professionally. He also lets fly with some occasional haymakers at theater critics, many of whom he patently considers clueless. Some famous names parade across his proscenium, as well, including Edward Fox, Tom Wilkinson, Tom Stoppard, Peter Hall, and Helen Mirren.
A sort of how-I-struggled-onto-the-stage story, told with appealing detail and self-deprecation.