Five Fascinating Facts about Kenneth Tynan

Fun facts about the life and work of the theatre critic Kenneth Tynan

1. He dodged his National Service – possibly by being too flamboyant. When Kenneth Tynan (1927-1980) was called up for National Service, he turned up with painted fingernails and wearing an over-the-top floppy hat, and ‘camped up’ his demeanour; he was promptly declared ‘medically unfit’ for service. He had long courted controversy, and even at his school debating society he put forward what were for the time ultra-progressive views in an effort to get a reaction, such as calling for the abolition of laws outlawing homosexuality and abortion. (He once gave a speech extolling the virtues of masturbation, perhaps inspired by Mark Twain’s lecture which took as its theme a similarly onanistically related subject. Later, he would unsuccessfully try to publish an anthology of masturbatory literature.)

Read more

Five Fascinating Facts about David Garrick

The life of actor David Garrick (1717-1779), told through five pieces of interesting trivia

1. He helped to bring a new degree of realism to acting. In his An Essay on Acting (1744), Garrick offered a new take on the art of stage-acting. Of Macbeth’s movement after the murder of Duncan, he wrote, ‘He should at that time be a moving Statue, or indeed a petrify’d Man; his Eyes must Speak, and Tongue be metaphorically Silent; his Ears must be sensible of imaginary Noises, and deaf to the present and audible Voice of his Wife; his Attitudes must be quick and permanent; his Voice articulately trembling, and confusedly intelligible; the Murderer should be seen in every Limb, and yet every Member, at that Instant, should seem separated from his Body, and his Body from his Soul.’ Garrick brought a new level of emotional investment to the role of the actor. 

Read more

Was Hamlet a Woman? Yes and No…

At the moment, Maxine Peake is playing Hamlet at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. The promotional blurb for the production on the Royal Exchange website states that Peake ‘creates a Hamlet for now, a Hamlet for Manchester’. But a woman playing Shakespeare’s Hamlet is, actually, nothing new. Numerous women have played the part in the … Read more

Can You Solve the Sphinx’s Other Riddle?

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

One of the most celebrated tragedies of ancient Greece was Oedipus Rex, Sophocles’ play about the Theban king who unwittingly killed his father and married his mother. In order to become King of Thebes, Oedipus had had to solve a famous riddle – or should that be riddles?

Read more

Ten of the Best Underrated Shakespeare Plays

Everyone knows Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Richard III (or knows of them at least). Even Richard II, As You Like It, and Antony and Cleopatra can be said to be well-known William Shakespeare plays. But what about the others? He wrote or collaborated on nearly forty, after all. Here are ten of the least-known plays by the Bard, … Read more