Tim Byrne reviews 'Joy Ride' by John Lahr

Tim Byrne reviews 'Joy Ride' by John Lahr

Joy Ride: Lives of the Theatricals

by John Lahr

Bloomsbury, $60 hb, 590 pp, 9781408868638

James Ley states in the introduction to his book The Critic in the Modern World (2014) that the significance of a critic 'depends on their ability to position themselves in opposition to certain prevailing tendencies'. Given the widespread shrinkage of space allotted to theatre criticism in the digital age, John Lahr's considered long-form approach to the art could in itself stand as a refutation of prevailing tendencies. His pieces for the New Yorker, where he served as senior drama critic for a record twenty-one years, are a satisfyingly detailed form of biographical criticism which deliberately evoke Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets.

In Australia, Lahr is perhaps better known as a biographer than as a critic, having penned the unforgettable Prick Up Your Ears (1978) about English playwright Joe Orton, and the definitive biography of Tennessee Williams, Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh (2014). The son of actor Burt Lahr – the Cowardly Lion in MGM's The Wizard of Oz (1939) – Lahr fils came reluctantly to the position of theatre critic, and has consistently shirked the more bloodthirsty aspects of the role. Certainly, the writings that make up Joy Ride, profiles of playwrights and directors separated by a compilation of reviews, reveal a man more curious than condemnatory.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Tim Byrne

Tim Byrne

Tim Byrne is a freelance writer and theatre critic for Australian Book Review, Time Out Melbourne, and Australian Arts Review. He is currently working on a novel. Tim is also a bookseller and interviewer, running a series of author interviews at Avenue Bookstore. He maintains an arts blog that focuses on theatre, film, and books.
Published in March 2016, no. 379

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.