What Do I Know?: People, Politics and the Arts

What Do I Know?: People, Politics and the Arts

by Richard Eyre Sir


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"Richard Eyre's writing is illuminated by all he has achieved as the consummate director of our age. He is the wise and gentle expert on the human heart." - Ian McEwan

Since his successful spell running the National Theatre, Richard Eyre’s career as a director of film, theatre and opera has made him a leading cultural figure and a hugely respected commentator on the arts.

This book collects over fifty short pieces written by Eyre about people he has known and worked with, ideas he has struggled with, things that have moved, delighted or infuriated him. He writes with candour, perceptiveness and charm, and always with an eye for the telling anecdote or the revealing detail that betrays the inner life of his subject.

Here we encounter Arthur Miller recounting to Eyre the events of the first night of Death of a Salesman; Harold Pinter overheard in a characteristically pugnacious exchange; Judi Dench racing clockwork chicks across a table, her face ‘illuminated by demented glee’. Here too are Alan Bennett, Kate Winslet, Margaret Thatcher, John Mortimer and Marlon Brando, each of them brought vividly and unforgettably to life in the space of a few hundred words.

Eyre also includes pieces about the monarchy, about the Iraq War, about Alzheimer’s Disease (from which his mother suffered), about his love of climbing (from the comparative safety of his armchair), and about the relationship between music and sexuality.

What Do I Know? is a book that tackles serious ideas with a light and often mischievous touch, and it confirms Eyre’s place as one of our foremost writers and cultural statesmen.

Richard Eyre is a theatre director, writer and former Artistic Director of the National Theatre (a position he held from 1988 to 1997). He has worked widely in theatre and opera - including in the West End, at the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House, on Broadway and in Aix-en-Provence. His film and television work includes The Ploughman's Lunch , Tumbledown , Iris , Notes on a Scandal , and Changing Stages , a six-part look at twentieth-century theatre. He has received many awards for theatre, TV and film, and was knighted in 1997.

"Highly intelligent and thought-provoking... gets right to the heart of what it means to be an actor... spectacular and highly entertaining... something for every theatre addict to enjoy." - British Theatre Guide

"Entertaining and informative... [Eyre] writes wittily and compellingly." - The Stage

"A superb collection… definitive, gorgeously written and devastatingly acute… a lifetime in the arts, and the institutions that matter, has rarely been so valuable, revealing or funny." - Michael Coveney, WhatsOnStage

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781848424180
Publisher: Theatre Communications Group
Publication date: 05/12/2015
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Richard Eyre was the Artistic Director of the National Theatre from 1988 to 1997. His films include Notes from A Scandal and Iris and his recent West End and Broadway productions include Mary Poppins , Ghosts and The Pajama Game . His book Talking Theatre is an NHB bestselling-title.

Table of Contents

Introduction xiii


John Mortimer 1

Arthur Miller 6

Tennessee Williams 10

Harold Pinter 13

Michael Bryant 16

Kate Winslet 18

Ian Charleson 23

Judi Dench 26

Stuart Burge 34

Peter Hall 37

Tony Harrison 41

Rose Gray and Ruthie Rogers 46

Jocelyn Herbert 50

Patrick Marber 55

David Hare 62

Charles Wood 74

Alan Bennett 77

Marlon Brando 80

Harley Granville-Barker 83

Mary Soames 86


Margaret Thatcher 91

The Monarchy 94

In Defence of the BBC 97

The Iraq War 103

General Sir Mike Jackson 113

Campaign Performance 121

The People's War 125

Cultural Apartheid 128

Shakespeare Had a Sponsor 133

Why the National Theatre Matters 137

Britishness 141


Autobiography 147

King Lear 150

Richard III 162

Hedda Gabler 167

Sons and Lovers 171

The Smoking Diaries 176

Being and Nothingness 181

Making Iris 184

Filming Fiction 191

Guys and Dolls 194

The Pajatna Game 198

Music 203

Opera 211

The Passion of the Christ 214

The Da Vinci Code 217

Michel Houellebecq 220

The Mousetrap 223

Changing Stages Diary 225

Playing Mad 265


Gardening 277

Mother's Day 282

Acknowledgements 287

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