The panicky listlessness that attends theatrical failure is an atmosphere that everyone within the walls of the theatre has no choice but to breathe, and worst affected, because most responsible was Ken Tynan… On my way to the theatre on the first night I ran into Ken and we walked into the foyer together where we at once collided with Olivier. There was a moment’s pause while the two men mentally circled each other. Olivier got in the first thrust. “Ken, baby, on behalf of the National Theatre and from the very bottom of my heart I really must thank you for bringing this brilliant, audacious play into the repertory of the Old Vic.” He didn’t get much further because Ken, shaking his head and grinning nervously as if he knew exactly what his boss was up to, swiftly parried “Y-y-y-you know very well, Larry, that the decision to do the play was t-t-t-taken by the two of us.! You read it and you said you absolutely l-l-l-loved it!” The hot potato was passed back and forth between them, then we went our separate ways into the auditorium, leaving the blame for the evening we had yet to endure to settle where it would.

Michael Blakemore, “Stage Blood: Five Tempestuous Years in the Early Life of the National Theatre”.


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