Author: Daniel Rosenthal
Publisher: Oberon Books
Reviewer: John Roberts
Upon first encountering Daniel Rosenthal’s The National Theatre Story you would be forgiven for taking in a deep inhale of breath, for here is one mighty large book at just under 1000 pages without footnotes (these are provided as a separate and also rather long but equally fascinating additional download.) However once you get past the sheer size of the tome, what you encounter is an incredibly researched and easy to get into history of one of the most interesting theatre buildings in the world.
Rosenthal has had unprecedented access to all the National Theatre’s archive material, director’s files, board papers, previously private documents and more and what might have become a rather dry historical account of the theatre and it’s directors, has with the help of new interviews with key performers, staff and insight into some of the most pivotal productions that have graced all three stages, become a delightful and engrossing read.
Rostenthal has obviously had a massive task to condense such a rich and varied history into the book. The theatre may only be young in comparison to other theatres but it isn’t without its own incredible and sometimes hard to believe stories. Rostenthal however leaves no stone unturned, no scandal left untouched, and his insightful book looks into each director’s reign from Hall to Hytner, (there is even a section here on forthcoming director Rufus Norris) with great reverence and authority and yet there is plenty of criticism of the institution and its inhabitants to stop the book becoming a glorified pat on the back. It would be rather interesting to see what sections never made the final edit (perhaps a bonus download at some point in time?)
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.
Due to its sheer size, The National Theatre Story is perhaps best served as a digital eBook, it’s far easier to store a few MB on your Kindle than squeeze the book in your work bag. But if you want a good looking book to sit on your shelf and for other theatre aficionados to admire then you can’t go wrong in buying this beautifully presented hardback and its aim to provide an insightful document of the theatre’s 50 years is without doubt worthy of its praise and is an unparalleled success.