restricted access On Directing: Interviews with Directors ed. by Gabriella Giannachi and Mary Luckhurst (review)
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REVIEWS Lord Chamberlain scanning the readers' reports for a 1957 licence hopeful, Sex by Walter Saltoun, to find such comments as "This nauseating mixture of sex, sadism, coprology, and sentiment is not recommended for licence" and "Rarely have I read such schoolboy dirt" (131, original emphasis). Incidentally , Johnson tells us that Saltoun applied four times for a liGence, encouraged in his fourth endeavour after a change in Lord Chamberlain office policy on homosexual themes. With delightful understatement, Johnson concludes, "Sex was never passed, and the Lord Chamberlain's reply to this letter [from Saltoun on the change in policy] has not been preserved in the files" (132). The Shellard collection is undoubtedly helpful in recording some of the questions that the British Library conference posed about the period, and it starts to suggest new avenues that might lead to a much more radical rereading of die plays and players of the 1950s. Indeed, it can easily be said that each of these three books provides a valuable resource for students and scholars of the period and that cumulatively they contribute to a rich debate on the various characteristics of British theatre in the second half of the twentieth century. Where they are less productive, I think, is in seriously challenging our received history and in genuinely opening up the discussion about these years to a much more expansive and diverse collection of dramatic events. It is time we moved far beyond those familiar repertories of plays in certain venues to include other categories of theatre and performance - commercial theatre, festivals , regional theatres, performance art, and so on. We do the period and our students a disservice by keeping our scholarship so resolutely focused on only a few locations and a few more plays. Only when we have articulated a fuller account will the topics of "modem drama" and the twentieth-century British stage begin to mean as provocatively as they most certainly should. GABRIELLA GIANNACHI AND MARY LUCKHURST, eds. Oil Directing: Interviews with Directors. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1999 (originally London: Faber and Faber, 1999). Pp. xvi + 142. $16.95 (Pb). Reviewed by Jennifer Harvie, University ofSurrey Roehampton Gabriella Giannachi and Mary Luckhurst's On Directing: IlIIerviews with Directors is a welcome addition to the growing corpus of recent books collecting interviews with contemporary, influential directors. The interview collection is proving itself a lastingly popular form for books on directing because - as is the case here - it combines archival documentation of directors ' processes and practices with the interest of character and voice and the readability of conversation. It also comfortably addresses a range of potentially interested readers, from theatre audiences, to drama students of both theory and practice, to professional practitioners. One of On Directing's par- Reviews ticular contributions to this growing library of collections of director interviews is its emphasis on contemporary directing, primarily in Britain, and its demonstration that there is a healthy and exciting variety of performance and directing practice even within this relatively limited purview. A second contribution of this collection is its emphasis on directors who "were either part of the artistic revolution in the 1960s" - which, the authors claim, challenged the orthodoxy of text-based theatre - "or have been powerfully influenced by it" (xiv). The authors work to substantiate this claim by asking the directors questions about, for example, audiences, spaces of production, and media, instead of casting and play selection. However, the claim is less successfully illustrated than it might have been had the directors been asked more specifically about their relationships to text-based and non-text-based theatre. The problem with this omission is that the book potentially reinforces a widely held preconception about recent theatre practice - namely, that it is moving away from text - without adequately demonstrating it. This is just one problem of methodology that On Directing usefully raises. There are various problems raised by the subject of directing that the book goes a good way towards working through productively. One such problem is how to convey - without pictures or video - a sense of a particular director's practice and theatre. At their best, the interviews in On Directing produce a kind of verbal portrait of...


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