Affair of the Heart
“The best theatrical read of the year.” – British Theatre Guide
A book of selected theatre reviews from 1992 to 2020 from one of the foremost authorities on British theatre.
Each chapter starts with a brief commentary on the developments of that era and the social, political and cultural context within which British theatre was being produced. Key obituaries and letters in response to reviews written are also included, providing a rich collection of curated archival material.
Following on from his first collection, One Night Stands, Michael Billington’s chronicle offers a rich, authoritative insight into British theatre over the last 3 decades from his unique professional perspective. It begins with Tony Kushner’s UK premiere of Angels in America at the National Theatre in 1992 and culminates with Inua Ellams’s celebrated adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters at the same venue almost 30 years later. En route, we’re exposed to the fallibility of theatre criticism through his much-regretted original criticism of Sarah Kane’s Blasted and its role in identifying major talents at the first opportunity.
Having recently retired from his 48-year position as the Guardian newspaper’s drama critic during which time he wrote around 10,000 theatre reviews, Michael Billiington was Britain’s longest-serving theatre critic. Through his work, he was present at an eye-watering number of premieres during this time and witnessed first-hand the exciting developments in British theatre over the past 30 years and the substantial pressures it faced – never more so than today.
Michael Billington's book is a pleasure to read, and a moving testament to his belief that criticism is an art form in itself. This collection guides us, with his customary clarity and insight, through three decades of theatre going; and its cumulative argument is for a theatre that matters. Although he has never turned up his nose at an evening that aims primarily to entertain, his spirits are palpably raised by plays that take on the world, and by artists whose ambitions include illumination of the past as well as the present. Little wonder that he is so trusted by his readers, and so admired by those he writes about. * Sir Nicholas Hytner * If a cultural historian of the next century were looking for a sympathetic and engaged description of the British theatre of the last twenty years, they should look no further than Billington... He is practical, passionate, opinionated and moralistic * Richard Eyre, theatre director * Anyone seeking both immediate impressions and a considered overview of British theatre over the past two decades couldn't find a better guide than this book * Times Literary Supplement on 'One Night Stands' * Besides being unflaggingly entertaining ... Billington exudes enthusiasm whenever he finds cause for congratulations * The Times on 'One Night Stands' * Easily the most important collection since Tynan, and the most enjoyable * Observer on 'One Night Stands' * I've been reading Michael's writing for as long as I can remember - the insights, flair and depth of his writing have been essential to my understanding of theatre for decades, as it has for so many Guardian readers. The 'Billington review' is a vital moment for any new production, as eagerly sought out by readers and rival critics as it is by performers and directors. * Katharine Viner, Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian *
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