Biography and Autobiography


Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life

Bloomsbury Publishing

This first English language biography of Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956) in two decades paints a strikingly new picture of one of the 20th century's most controversial cultural icons. First published in 2014 and now available in paperback, it was critically lauded and declared the definitive life of this great artist and writer.

Drawing on letters, diaries and unpublished material, including Brecht's medical records, Parker offers a rich and enthralling account of Brecht's life and work, viewed through the prism of the artist. Tracing his extraordinary life, from his formative years in Augsburg, through the First World War, his politicisation during the Weimar Republic and his years of exile, up to the Berliner Ensemble's dazzling productions in Paris and London, Parker shows how Brecht achieved his transformative effect upon world theatre and poetry.

Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life is a powerful portrait of a great, compulsively contradictory personality, whose artistry left its lasting imprint on modern culture.

'A magisterial biography of Brecht ... Parker's choice to present new material very much through the prism of the artist is compelling ... Fascinating reading.' The Independent

'We should be grateful to [Parker] for reminding us how important, love him or loathe him, Brecht was – and still is.' The Sunday Times

Coward The Playwright

Bloomsbury Publishing

'Noël Coward,' said Terence Rattigan, 'is simply a phenomenon, and one that is unlikely to occur ever again in theatre history.' A phenomenon he certainly was, and it is part of John Lahr's purpose in this book to show how that phenomenon called “Noël Coward” was largely Coward's own careful creation.

Lahr's penetrating critical study of Coward's drama investigates all the major and minor plays of the 'Master'. In all Coward's plays Lahr uncovers a coherent philosophy in which charm is both the subject of Coward's comedies and the trap which made his very public life a perpetual performance.

'A smashing, thoughtful and very good guide to Coward's plays' - Sheridan Morley

The Craft of Theatre: Seminars and Discussions in Brechtian Theatre

Bloomsbury Publishing

The Craft of Theatre is a first-hand account by one of the greatest actors and directors of the Berliner Ensemble, whose work with the company spanned over forty years. It offers an unparalleled insight to working on Brecht's texts and in some of the great Brechtian roles and will appeal to actors, directors and students of theatre.

Ekkehard Schall's life was devoted to the theatre. In this autobiographical memoir, he offers a lifetime of experience, expertise and memories of working with some of the great German writers, actors and directors of the twentieth century. A member of the Berliner Ensemble established by Bertolt Brecht and his wife Helene Weigel in 1949, Ekkehard Schall worked on numerous productions of Brecht's plays and others with the Ensemble between 1952 and 1995. In the 1970s and 80s he combined the roles of leading actor and deputy director of the Ensemble. In all he played over sixty roles and achieved greatest success in the role as Arturo Ui, a role he played over 500 times.

The Craft of Theatre: Seminars and Discussions in Brechtian Theatre offers the reader a lively account of Schall's work, of his insights and his appreciation of the Brechtian roles he assumed, and of the work of Germany's most important theatre. The Craft of Theatre is an important addition to Brechtian studies and to the biography of Germany's most totemic theatre.

'When you see Schall at work during his two-hour performance, it's as if you were watching Brecht himself on stage. Schall's technical skills embody all of Brechtian dramatic theory and practice, just as Brecht's thoughts and opinions infuse his performances.' NewYork City Tribune

Double Act

Bloomsbury Publishing

Double Act is the first major biography of one of the world's most celebrated writers. From his early theatrical success as the youngest playwright ever produced at the National Theatre, to his Academy Award-winning screenplay for Shakespeare in Love, Tom Stoppard's work is renowned for its dazzling wit, invention and box-office appeal. But his real life is a more complicated affair; and this acclaimed and authoritative book reveals the remarkable private story of a man who from childhood had to invent his own personality, and whose multi-layered drama reflect the enduring contradictions of his life. Fully revised and updated, this edition also discusses Stoppard's latest work, The Coast of Utopia trilogy.

"The story of Stoppard's life is a compelling one and it is laid out with extraordinary detail in this first major biography" - Evening Standard

"An impressive biography ... it makes a good story out of that most unpromising subject, an unqualified and extended triumph." Spectator

"Appealingly embellished with Stoppard's shrewd witticisms about his work and full of keen perceptions of its own, Double Act offers an exhaustive and enlightening overview of a singular talent that is happiest when expressing itself in dual ways." Sunday Times

"Nadel is excellent at providing an exposition of Stoppard's ideas and the wider social context in which he lives." Independent on Sunday

"A searching biography of this mercurial writer ... Nadel builds an engrossing picture of someone in continual self-reinvention." Jewish Chronicle

"Stoppard's playwriting career, unsurprisingly, constitutes the largest component of the biography, and the production details, gossip and contractual facts make for fascinating reading." Irish Times

"If the genius of Nadel's subject lies in paradox, it also needs genius to turn that paradox into an event. This book is one, and a palpable hit." Good Book Guide

"Essential reading for all students of theatre." Hampstead & Highgate

Future Indefinite

Bloomsbury Publishing

'I found myself talking about England so very proudly, though I was talking about England in the war years when her gallantry and common sense were marred by emergency. It is all very confusing. I think I had better get after Future Indefinite and get some of my confusion down on paper.'

This second volume of Noël Coward's legendary autobiography includes Future Indefinite and the unfinished Past Conditional. With his celebrated panache, Coward shares anecdotes about his South American travels, Hollywood encounters and his later theatrical successes, including the Broadwy triumph of Design for Living. Aside from the showbiz glamour, we discover a middle-aged man coming to terms with a world in disarray; his confused feelings towards the war expose the more serious and thoughtful side of performer and raconteur more usually associated with frivolity. Nonetheless, the events described in Future Indefinite see Coward transformed into one of the most exuberant characters in British theatrical history.

Grinning At The Edge

Bloomsbury Publishing

The hugely acclaimed, authorised biography of Britain's most popular playwright.

Alan Ayckbourn is Britain's most popular playwright and its most private. He has won numerous awards for his plays and has worked with some of theatre's most celebrated names, yet he spends most of his time away from the limelight in a Yorkshire seaside town not writing at all but running a small repertory theatre.

This is a portrait of a man who - from Relatively Speaking in 1965 to his double play House and Garden at the National Theatre in 2000 – has chronicled human behaviour, our aspirations and insecurities, while shaping the theatrical experience of millions.

John Gielgud: Matinee Idol to Movie Star

Bloomsbury Publishing

John Gielgud: Matinee Idol to Movie Star is the most authoritative and comprehensive account of the finest classical actor of the twentieth century. This entertaining but critical biography charts the ups and downs of Gielgud's long and glittering career, from his young ground-breaking Hamlet to his later success in plays by Pinter, Storey, Bond and Bennett, and his recognition as a major movie star following his role in Arthur. It also reassesses his complex relationship with his great rival Laurence Olivier and throws fresh light on his personal relationships and the turbulent episodes of his private life that threatened to shatter his career.

For this biography Jonathan Croall's exhaustive research has included over a hundred new interviews with key people from his life and career, including Peter Brook, Kenneth Branagh, Alec Guinness, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins, and it draws on several hundred letters to and from Gielgud that have never been published, including correspondences with Noël Coward, Somerset Maugham, Siegfried Sassoon, Edith Evans and Edward Gordon Craig. What emerges is an intimate, complex and often startling portrait of this great actor and much-loved man.

Gielgud's interpretations of Shakespeare's great roles made Shakespeare's plays a commercial success on London's West End for the first time. He was also hugely influential as a director and an actor-manager and worked extensively in film and television later in life. Since Jonathan Croall's first biography of Gielgud was published in 2000 a considerable amount of new material has come to light and the result is a much more rounded, candid and richly textured portrait of this celebrated stage and screen actor.


Bloomsbury Publishing

Vsevolod Meyerhold began his career in theatre as an actor with the Moscow Art Theatre, and after a spell in the remote provinces, he returned to Moscow at Stanislavski's invitation and founded a new, experimental studio for the Art Theatre. This book takes us through Meyerhold's extraordinary life of experiment and discovery, describing his rehearsal techniques and exercises and provides an acute assessment of his continuing influence on contemporary theatre.

Stephen Joseph: Theatre Pioneer and Provocateur

Bloomsbury Publishing

A 1967 obituary in The Times labelled Stephen Joseph 'the most successful missionary to work in the English theatre since the second world war'. This radical man brought theatre-in-the-round to Britain, provoked Ayckbourn, Pinter and verbatim theatre creator Peter Cheeseman to write and direct, and democratised theatregoing. This monograph investigates his forgotten legacy.

This monograph draws on largely unsorted archival material (including letters from Harold Pinter, J. B. Priestley, Peggy Ramsay and others), and on new interviews with figures including Sir Alan Ayckbourn, Trevor Griffiths and Sir Ben Kingsley, to demonstrate how the impact on theatre in Britain of manager, director and 'missionary' Stephen Joseph has been far greater than is currently acknowledged within traditional theatre history narratives. The text provides a detailed assessment of Joseph's work and ideas during his lifetime, and summarises his broadly-unrecognised posthumous legacy within contemporary theatre. Throughout the book Paul Elsam identifies Joseph's work and ideas, and illustrates and analyses how others have responded to them. Key incidents and events during Joseph's career are interrogated, and case studies that highlight Joseph's influence and working methods are provided.

'There are good reasons for theatre-makers, scholars and historians to read this fascinating study salvaging the achievements and hidden legacy of a pioneer and provocateur ... The publication is neither a dry chronicle nor a technical manual prescribing methods for advancing socially inclusive theatre. Rather, it is a lively synthesis of anecdotal incidents, opinions and events culled from interviews and publications astutely integrated with meticulous scholarship offering oblique insights into a wealth of unfamiliar cultural norms ... Moreover, the writing is that of a theatre historian with a keen dramaturgical sense of presenting his subject ... Elsam's publication offers a fine template for South African research scholars. More crucially, for anyone committed to practices that are culturally inclusive and transformative, transposing Joseph's ideas to the South African context offers dynamic ways of thinking about collaborative practice, the choice of stories to tell and presentation styles to adopt.' South African Theatre Journal, 27:3

'In this well-researched study, the author strives to offer 'a fresh and deep reappraisal of Joseph's work, and a thorough re-examination of his discoveries' (x)-which he does. … [Elsam's] book makes a powerful case as to the centrality of Stephen Joseph in British theatrical history and practice.' Theatre Journal

The Worst It Can Be Is A Disaster

Bloomsbury Publishing

Born into a Jewish family, Braham Murray struggled against his parents' expectations that he should follow them into the world of commerce; instead, he became at twenty-two the youngest artistic director in the country when he took over Century Theatre, a theatre company based in Manchester.

Detailing his relationships and the theatrical successes and flops along the way, the narrative takes us through his early years with Century Theatre, with the 69 Theatre Company, and the birth of the Royal Exchange Manchester in the heart of Manchester in 1976. Twenty years later, the theatre rose from the ashes of the IRA bomb brilliantly opening a new production on time just ten days after the bomb had destroyed the city centre.

The role and influence of the author's Jewish heritage and of his key collaborators - including Caspar Wrede and Michael Elliott - are explored in this illuminating and inspiring account of one of English theatre's great directors.

'Full of the most hair-raising, hilarious incidents, both amorous and theatrical.' Kevin Bourke, Manchester Evening News (September 2007)

'An engrossing and at times startlingly honest account of a life devoted to the theatre' The Stage

The Methuen Drama Biography and Autobiography series includes the stories of the life and work of some of theatre’s most distinguished practitioners.