In “A Theatre Life” we ask some of the most important and influential people within the London theatre business to reflect on their life and work.
Sir Richard Eyre
We can’t do any better than Judi Dench in summing up the impact and importance that Sir Richard Eyre has had on West End, British and world theatre, through his long career of writing, adapting, directing and managing: “He’s an extraordinary man of the theatre. He’s an incredible man of integrity about the theatre, and you feel, when you’re working with him, that you’re in very safe hands. He believes in the theatre passionately.” (from PBS).
Currently directing his adaptation of Ghosts at the Almeida, and about to helm Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical Stephen Ward in the West End, Richard Eyre has directed an extraordinary wealth of plays and musicals, both new and classic, over his career. He has also managed playhouses, most notably the National Theatre from 1988 to 1997, directed for TV and film, and is an acclaimed author.
What was your earliest ambition?
To be a fireman.
How do you spend the first hour of your day?
3 times a week running in Hyde Park, 4 days a week answering e-mails.
How physically fit are you?
Are you political?
Yes. I’m a Labour supporter in spite of much provocation to defect.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
A house in Gloucestershire.
Personal wealth or reputation? Which is more important?
What is your most treasured possession?
I tempted to say my reputation but more truthfully it’s my house in Gloucestershire.
Is London the world’s greatest location for theatre?
In what place are you happiest?
Who do you most admire? Actors or theatre practitioners?
What ambitions do you still have? What drives you on?
My ambition is to keep working.
What is the single greatest achievement in your life so far?
Running the National Theatre for 10 years.
If your 18 year old self could see you now, what would they say?
“I don’t believe it.”
How would you like to bow out of your career?
Does theatre really matter?
Of course. There’s no art that uses time, space, gesture, movement, speech, colour, costume, light and music in the way that theatre does. It’s never like real life but it’s true to life. It’s poetic: it thrives on metaphor – things stand for things rather than being the thing itself, a room becomes a world, a group of characters become a whole society. That’s why it’s so good at dealing with politics and morals. Theatre invokes the astonishment of the unreal, and the strange, magnified, proportions which occur naturally in childhood. And it always relates to the scale of the human figure and the unamplified voice.
Which London theatre holds the strongest memories for you?
* * * * * * * * *
Ghosts at the Almeida Theatre is now in previews and opens this Thursday, 3 October 2013, running until 23 November 2013. Adapted and directed by Richard Eyre, Ghosts stars Lesley Manville as Helene in Ibsen’s classic drama.
Stephen Ward at the Aldwych Theatre starts previews from 3 December 2013 with press night on 19 December 2013 and is currently booking to 1 March 2014. Richard Eyre directs Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical about the Profumo Affair starring Alexander Hanson, Charlotte Spencer and Charlotte Blackledge.
Almeida Theatre Website: Book tickets to Ghosts
Book tickets to Stephen Ward at the Aldwych Theatre
Richard Eyre on Desert Island Discs
Debretts: Richard Eyre
Westendtheatre.com: More on Richard Eyre
A Theatre Life: More interviews in the “A Theatre Life” series