Ian Dickson reviews 'Dramatic Exchanges: The lives and letters of the National Theatre' edited by Daniel Rosenthal

Ian Dickson reviews 'Dramatic Exchanges: The lives and letters of the National Theatre' edited by Daniel Rosenthal

Dramatic Exchanges: The lives and letters of the National Theatre

edited by Daniel Rosenthal

Profile Books, $49.99 hb, 416 pp, 9781781259351

What exactly is a National Theatre for? What is its purpose? What form should it take? National theatres come in many configurations. There is the four-hundred-year-old Comédie-Française serenely presiding over French culture from the Salle Richelieu. The Habima Theatre of Israel, which mirrors the history of many of its countrymen in its journey from imperial persecution in Białystok to its transplantation to Palestine in 1928 and its final recognition in Israel in 1958. Then there is the more recent National Theatre of Scotland (2006), which proudly declares itself to be a ‘Theatre Without Walls’, and has no home playhouse, preferring to play in all sorts of locations.

The National Theatre of Great Britain, though much younger than many of its brethren, has achieved much in its fifty-six years. In Dramatic Exchanges, Daniel Rosenthal, the author of an exhaustive if slightly stolid history of the National (2013), has compiled a fascinating collection of letters, notes, emails, and countless first-night cards to create an alternative narrative, not as comprehensive perhaps as his history but much more immediate. It is fascinating to read these alongside the various autobiographies and diaries of those involved. Here we have the rough drafts that are often considerably smoothed out in their memoirs.

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.

Ian Dickson

Ian Dickson

Ian Dickson has degrees in drama from Yale and the University of New South Wales, and is the co-author of the musical Better Known As Bee.
Published in April 2019, no. 410

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.