Saw and Heard Nicholas Hytner in conversation with Rachel Cooke to promote his book Balancing Acts at the Wimbledon BookFest. He was entertaining and succinct. You wonder if his clarity and single mindedness had come about after having so much thrown at him during his 12 years as Artistic Director of the National Theatre. He was both fortunate and astute in choosing the people he worked with. He had two great associate directors, Marianne Elliot and the late Howard Davis and a wonderful producer Nick Star, who he’s now working with at The Bridge Theatre. Among the achievements he’s most proud of are originating the streaming of live performances into cinemas the successes of War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and two Men and a Guvnor. When rehearsing One Man, Two Guvnors there was something not quite right and they invited an audience of school children to a rehearsal. James Corden was being pretty much his television personality – witty and bright and although the school children responded to him and the play they didn’t find it very funny. James Corden’s character was based on a Commedia dell’ Arte character from Richard Bean’s adaptation of A Servant of Two Masters (Italian: Il servitore di due padroni), a 1743 Commedia dell’arte style comedy play by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni. The character is stupid and devious. James Corden delivered the performance that made the play so funny, once he understood this. Comedy is the most difficult to get right and rehearse Nicholas Hytner said. It’s practise, practise and timing with none of the enriching, enlightening moments that can happen with say Shakespeare or Shaw. Nicolas Hytner is optimistic about live theatre with the number of talented playwrights emerging such as Lucy Kirkwood.
Young Marx by Richard Bean with Rory Kinnear is Nicholas Hytner’s next directing project at the new The Bridge Theatre. It is the first theatre to be built in London for many years and Nicolas Hytner and Nick Star are responsible for the project. The Bridge Theatre is by the Tower of London and the nearest station is London Bridge. Young Marx opens on 18th October and is followed by a production of Julius Caesar with Ben Whishaw. Probably a good idea to book early.
Nicolas Hytners’s book Balancing Acts is on sale now and would make a great Christmas present for anyone who is curious about The National Theatre and life in general.