Brian McFarlane

One of the most appropriate titles since Pride and Prejudice, Balancing Acts adroitly captures the drama and appeal of Nicholas Hytner’s account of his twelve years as director of London’s National Theatre. There have been several different takes on this often-controversial site of some of the world’s most riveting theatrical fare ...

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2016 Arts Highlights of the Year

John Allison et al.
Wednesday, 26 October 2016

To highlight Australian Book Review’s arts coverage and to celebrate some of the year’s memorable concerts, operas, films, ballets, plays, and art exhibitions, we invited a group of critics and arts professionals to nominate some favourites.

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Brian McFarlane reviews 'Mad Dog Morgan' by Jake Wilson

Brian McFarlane
Monday, 21 December 2015

The evocative Prologue to this book has a poetic precision that bodes well for its treatment of this too-long neglected film, and what follows more than answers such expectations.

Jake Wilson's analysis (resuscitation might be a better word) of the 1976 Australian bushranging adventure,

Arts Highlights of the Year

Robyn Archer et al.
Monday, 26 October 2015

To highlight Australian Book Review's arts coverage and to celebrate some of the year's memorable concerts, operas, films, ballets, plays, and exhibitions, we invited a group of critics and arts professionals to nominate their favourites – and to nominate one production they are looking forward to in 2016. (We indicate which works were reviewed in Arts Up ...

Desley Deacon reviews 'Double-Act' by Brian McFarlane

Desley Deacon
Thursday, 28 May 2015

Although many attempt it, writing the biography of an actor of a previous era is fraught. They consist mainly of lists of movies or plays long forgotten. The reception of their art is recorded by critics, once all-powerful, but now unknown. Their personal life and personality are hidden behind a screen of studio publicity. Writing the lives and careers of two stars ...

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Eugene O'Neill' by Robert M. Dowling

Brian McFarlane
Wednesday, 29 April 2015

It seems unlikely that anyone ever emerged from the performance of an O’Neill play saying happily, ‘Laugh! I nearly died.’ Robert M. Dowling’s fine biography helps to account for this: the life behind the writing of those plays was not conducive to a hilarious outcome. To have survived the life he lived would have been remarkable enough, let alone turning ou ...

Wolf Hall on Stage

Brian McFarlane
Thursday, 22 May 2014

Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novel Wolf Hall has now been dramatised, along with its sequel, Bring up the Bodies. Brian McFarlane, a regular ABR film and theatre critic, caught the new Royal Shakespeare Company production in London.

If, like me, you were not a fan of Hilary Mantel’s historical doorstops, Wolf Hall (2009) ...

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Stage Blood'

Brian McFarlane
Sunday, 19 January 2014

Anyone lucky enough to have read Arguments with England (2004), the first volume of Michael Blakemore’s memoirs, will be eager to read the second, Stage Blood, in which he traces the tumultuous history of his years at London’s National Theatre. Further, anyone as lucky as I was to see such productions of his as Long Day’s Journey into Ni ...

Mr Pip

Brian McFarlane
Thursday, 31 October 2013

Film-wise, 2013 has been the year of adapting dangerously. Dangerously, that is, in the sense of daring to affront devoted readers of the original novels or plays, valuing enterprise over fidelity. Now, just after admirable versions of Much Ado about Nothing and What Maisie Knew have finished their runs, we have director–screenwriter Andrew Ada ...

What Maisie Knew

Brian McFarlane
Friday, 27 September 2013

The last twelve months have seen some notable film reworkings of classic literary texts, with Anna Karenina set in a theatre, a black Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, and a gorgeous Much Ado About Nothing enacted in monochrome contemporary California. Now we have a compelling version of Henry James’s novel What Maisie Knew (1897), ...

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