Page extent: 928
ISBN: 9781840027686
Binding: HardBack

The National Theatre Story

Daniel Rosenthal


Winner of the STR Theatre Book Prize 2014

The National Theatre Story is filled with artistic, financial and political battles, onstage triumphs – and the occasional disaster.

This definitive account takes readers from the National Theatre’s 19th-century origins, through false dawns in the early 1900s, and on to its hard-fought inauguration in 1963. At the Old Vic, Laurence Olivier was for ten years the inspirational Director of the NT Company, before Peter Hall took over and, in 1976, led the move into the National’s concrete home on the South Bank. Altogether, the NT has staged more than 800 productions, premiering some of the 20th and 21st centuries’ most popular and controversial plays, including Amadeus, The Romans in Britain, Closer, The History Boys, War Horse and One Man, Two Guvnors. 

Certain to be essential reading for theatre lovers and students, The National Theatre Story is packed with photographs and draws on Daniel Rosenthal’s unprecedented access to the National Theatre’s own archives, unpublished correspondence and more than 100 new interviews with directors, playwrights and actors, including Olivier’s successors as Director (Peter Hall, Richard Eyre, Trevor Nunn and Nicholas Hytner), and other great figures from the last 50 years of British and American drama, among them Edward Albee, Alan Bennett, Judi Dench, Michael Gambon, David Hare, Tony Kushner, Ian McKellen, Diana Rigg, Maggie Smith, Peter Shaffer, Stephen Sondheim and Tom Stoppard.

Click to hear Daniel Rosenthal reading from The National Theatre Story

Additional Information

ISBN13 9781840027686
Binding HardBack
Page Extent 928


‘The story of the National Theatre is as packed with drama as anything it has staged…Covering 50 years during which the National has staged 800 or so shows, it can’t help but prompt vivid memories in theatre-going reader.’ Sunday Times

'This weighty tome is the definitive history, synthesising many of the previous works, incorporating extensive new interview material with privileged access to directors' files, administrative records, board papers and the restricted holdings in the NT archive... It's all here, summarised better than anywhere else…. this is a story with guts, great actors, laughter, disaster, and other properties that most books don't possess….. It's the story of a campaign, a process, a fulfilment; of a triumph of the national character despite itself, of a celebration and a realisation of what we, as a nation, simply do better, probably thanks to Shakespeare, than anyone else: the theatre.'  Michael Coveney, Independent

‘[A] magnificently detailed history… a full and fascinating account of the contrasting regimes of the theatre’s first five directors… Throughout the book Rosenthal describes with admirable lucidity and fairness the many dramas and crises, providing a variety of opinion and perspective from the main players, both now and at the time… [A] meticulously researched book, which provides a uniquely revealing story of life within a great cultural institution.’ The Spectator

'The writing style is objective but lively. Over the years, there's a sense of the courtly manoeuvring of kingmakers and pretenders to the throne. As for the kings themselves, it's fascinating watching each artistic director's trajectory, which Rosenthal elegantly twists into the institution's bigger history...This is a book to dip in and out of, take it at a leisurely pace, and it will keep surprising and informing you for years to come.' The Stage

'There should be no question that The National Theatre Story is the best book on theatre that has been published in living memory... What makes this history so compelling is its combination of straight record, biographies of those that became involved in the process of creating, running, performing or working behind the scenes in the theatre and brief précis of many of the plays that defined the theatre. Whether you are reading about events before you were born or plays that you have seen, Rosenthal has something fresh and informative to say on almost every occasion.' British Theatre Guide

‘…an incredibly researched and easy to get into history of one of the most interesting theatre buildings in the world…a delightful and engrossing read…no stone unturned, no scandal left untouched. The sheer diligence of Rosenthal is clear, here is an author who is passionate about his subject matter and it can’t be long before any theatrical institute looking to document its history comes knocking on his door. [A] beautifully presented hardback.’ The Public Reviews

'Rosenthal gives a vivid and objective account of what goes on behind the scenes… This invaluable and monumental history, essential reading for anybody seriously interested in theatre history, is based not only on interviews with key figures, but also (and this is a real bonus) on the restricted holdings of the NT archives, admin records, Director’s files and Board papers. It will be a major contender for the prize of best theatre book of the year.' Mature Times

'[A] mighty tome... Rosenthal documents with precision and style.' Herald Scotland

'fascinating at every turn of the page... The National Theatre Story is one of those books you will turn back to again and again.' Playbill


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