Monday, 30 March 2015

Nicholas Hytner: Denationalised

At the end of his last public platform on Friday, the house rose in unanimous ovation, like a pot coming to the boil. At the centre of the great Olivier Theatre revolving stage, the slight figure hesitated for a moment, framed by the night sky and towering ship’s timbers of the Treasure Island set. He smiled his thanks and made his exit, stage right, against the starlight. After 12 remarkable years, Nick Hytner, the artistic director of the National Theatre, was saying goodbye.

Later, at the party for colleagues and friends in the vast scenery dock, the staff had laboured to dangle significant props and set up frames with cutouts of the director’s elfin features for innumerable jokey “selfies”. Actor Alex Jennings celebrated their 35-year working relationship and Frances de la Tour improbably cried: “He is my husband!” ...

At Friday’s party the man himself spoke last, from a heart that seemed very close to the surface. He talked of how the job had educated him, freed his spirit and offered the rare power to take artistic risks and “just say – Do It!” to innovators restlessly looking for new ways to create and stage truth, tales and entertainments.

He told how, at the NT’s 50th birthday gala, he longed to dash backstage and sit awhile in the green room with actors: a dizzying assembly of legends and fresh stars who spanned the half century. But he lost his pass, borrowed one that didn’t work, and vainly bashed the security door with such frustration that he broke the glass. “I am,” he said, “just a fan like anyone else… and I was locked out." ...

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