Corin Redgrave to Be Kenneth Tynan at Royal Shakespeare Company

News   Corin Redgrave to Be Kenneth Tynan at Royal Shakespeare Company
Perhaps no 20th century theatre critic since George Bernard Shaw cut as striking a figure as Kenneth Tynan, the enfant terrible of the British theatre scene of the 1950s and 1960s. Flamboyant in his language, prose and dress; tall and elegant, yet saddled with a stutter; a heavy smoker and drinker with an unseemly and open interest in all varieties of sexual pleasure—Tynan was as theatrical and showy as the attractions he reviewed.
Kenneth Tynan in 1966
Kenneth Tynan in 1966

The Royal Shakespeare Company, recognizing his innately dramatic character, will present a one-man show about Tynan, starring Corin Redgrave as the writer. According to the Observer (the paper for which Tynan wrote for years), the critic's daughter by his first marriage, to Elaine Dundy, suggested the idea for the play.

No dates or title were mentioned.

That the RSC should produce the work is somewhat ironic, since Tynan was instrumental is the creation of Britain's other great institutional theatre, the Royal National Theatre. And that Redgrave is portraying him could be considered an act of chivalry or even bravery; Tynan often expressed rough assessments of the talents of Corin's father, Sir Michael Redgrave.

Tynan was born in 1927. He had a pronounced stutter from an early age, but it did not hinder his sense of self-worth. He cut a colorful swath through Oxford, editing the school newspaper, directing imaginative productions in which he also starred, dressing in purple velvet suits and living far beyond his meager means. He published his first book of drama criticism before he graduated, managing to wrest an introduction from none other than Orson Welles. After a brief career as an actor and director, he began writing for the Evening Standard and later the Observer while still in his '20s.

Tynan greatest achievement as a critic was his advocacy of the Angry Young Man school of playwriting, which in the late '50s rocked the staid English theatre traditions. Without his help, John Osborne's Look Back in Anger, the landmark work of that movement, would not have become a success. He was also a champion of Brecht and Beckett, while criticizing the talents of Pinter and his followers. After years of bemoaning the fact that England has no national theatre, he joined the finally formed National in 1963 as literary manager to Laurence Olivier's artistic director. He was forced out in 1973 when Peter Hall took over the institution. A longtime opponent of censorship in the theatre, he helped create the long-running erotic revue Oh, Calcutta! He also became notorious as the first man in British television history to say a certain four-letter word on the air. In the '70s, Tynan was famous for his lengthy New Yorker profiles on the likes of Louise Brooks, Tom Stoppard and Ralph Richardson.

His other books include "Curtains," "Tynan Left and Right" and "Show People."

He died in 1980 of lung cancer. His wife later published "The Autobiography of Kenneth Tynan." Since his death, his letters, profiles and diaries have been collected in book form.

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