For fans of the stage, this is a pleasant peek behind the scenes during a transformative period of British theater history.

BALANCING ACTS

BEHIND THE SCENES AT LONDON'S NATIONAL THEATRE

A celebrated director shares his memories from his years as the head of one of the world’s most famous theater companies.

Hytner was already an accomplished figure—in the 1990s, he directed the original stage productions of Miss Saigon and The Madness of George III—when, in 2003, he became artistic director of London’s National Theatre. He left in 2015 and has now written this witty memoir, his debut book, most of it devoted to that period. “You start with a vision, and you deliver a compromise,” he writes. “And you’re pulled constantly in different directions.” Throughout, Hytner describes the many compromises (the balancing acts of the title) that he and his company of actors and writers—among his collaborators were Alan Bennett, Alex Jennings, Frances de la Tour, and Maggie Smith—had to make, one of which was figuring out what to do when government cuts to arts funding meant that “a huge potential audience…could no longer afford the arts.” In response, he innovated, pioneering the idea of corporate-sponsored, inexpensive seats and putting on a range of programming, from classics such as The Importance of Being Earnest to more challenging fare like Bennett’s The History Boys; England People Very Nice, a raucous “comic odyssey through four waves of immigration to London”; and, most notoriously, Jerry Springer: The Opera. Though the tone of the book is inconsistent, ranging from stream-of-consciousness to gossip to near-scholarly readings of Shakespeare, the many backstage stories, as well as the author’s reminiscences about his flirtation with Hollywood, make this an entertaining read. Among the anecdotes: Harold Pinter’s profane tirade at a restaurant because Hytner didn’t revive the playwright’s Celebration and the story of producer Cameron Mackintosh pushing a composer off a piano stool to show him how to perform a song only for Mackintosh to remember that he didn’t know how to play the piano.

For fans of the stage, this is a pleasant peek behind the scenes during a transformative period of British theater history.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49340-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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