(Hare’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/17.)

David Hare: mere fact, mere fiction

In an impassioned riposte to his critics, David Hare argues

This month I celebrated a melancholy anniversary. It was 40 years since the premiere of my first full-length play at the Hampstead Theatre Club on 6 April 1970. Those old enough to remember will know that the prefabricated building was moved first from one side of the Swiss Cottage car park to the other – and then back again. Somewhere in transit the word "Club" dropped from the shingle. In other words, in four decades, theatre culture has changed, if not out of all recognition, at least significantly.

One further example. If you set to writing plays in the postwar years, it was necessary, or at least expected, to pass through a portal of approval. In prospect, this gave a comfortable, orderly feeling to the idea of being a British dramatist. Kenneth Tynan, a humanist dandy, guarded the portal on one side from his position at the Observer. Harold Hobson, a Conservative Francophile whose life had been changed at the age of 10 by the sight of a Bible in the illuminated window of a Christian Science church, guarded the other side from the Sunday Times. A novice playwright had every reason to expect that a life in the theatre would involve attracting and then retaining the interest of at least one of these two men. Hobson's name was inextricably linked with Beckett's and with Pinter's. Tynan's fortunes rose with his advocacy of the work of Osborne. These were the writers they championed and whose view of the world fired them up. They were interlinked by a profound correspondence of belief. Today, no such correspondence exists. No living theatrical figure is associated with any particular critic. Tynan, just turned 83 years old had he not been taken by emphysema, would be devastated to know that to work seriously in the British theatre it is no longer necessary even to know the name of the Observer's theatre critic.


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