One of one of the country’s most experienced and diligent theatre experts, Robert Tanitch, has responded to Philip Fisher’s request for lists of fantasy performances that he wishes could be made available on video.
Robert’s top 10 crosses the artistic spectrum including dance and opera as well as theatre. To top off the sumptuous feast, he has even thrown in a spot of high quality French cabaret as a rich desert.
- Opening night of the brand new theatre at Epidaurus in the 4th century BC.
- Richard Burbage as Hamlet in the first performance ever.
- Edmund Kean in 1812 as a totally original Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.
- Sarah Siddons as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth.
- Première of Strauss’s Salome in Dresden in 1905 with a shocked audience.
- Vaslav Nijinski in Stravinsky’s L’Apres-Midi D’Un Faune with opening night riots in Paris in 1912.
- Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud alternating Romeo and Mercutio opposite Peggy Ashcroft as Juliet in the 1935 productions of Romeo and Juliet.
- Ralph Richardson as Falstaff in Henry IV in 1945.
- Donald Wolfit as King Lear during World War II.
- Maria Callas as Tosca in 1964.
As a bonus, it would have been wonderful to be present on any occasion when Edith Piaf was singing Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien live.
Many readers will already be familiar with Robert Tanitch’s body of work. In addition to being a theatre critic for BTG and other publications, he is a British playwright, author, biographer, lecturer and film critic.
He has written 18 books on great British actors and Oscar Wilde on Stage and Screen, the most recent of these are London Stage in the 20th Century, Haus Publishing and London Stage in the Nineteenth Century, Carnegie.
In particular, these encyclopaedic volumes have been widely praised and, in a recent issue of Country Life, Michael Billington in choosing his 10 Favourite Theatre Books wrote as follows:
London Stage in the 20th Century by Robert Tanitch (Haus Publishing). It is often said that theatre lacks the equivalent of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack but this is the next best thing: a sumptuously illustrated list, with pin-sharp descriptions, of all the major productions of the past century. A whole world is contained in a book of coffee-table proportions and champagne memories.
The first professional production of one of Robert’s plays took place while he was still at Oxford University, while he has subsequently had two plays and revue sketches produced in the West End.
Beyond that, he has been the Old Vic Theatre's education projects director and lectured on Shakespeare and run seminars in England, Australia, Indonesia and Kenya.
Robert has also written and directed the cassette series Shakespeare Interviews. He devised a Shakespearean revue, Shakespeare in Love, which was performed in London and Dallas in order to raise money to rebuild Shakespeare's Globe in Southwark, London.
For those looking for entertainment during the lockdown, Robert has a YouTube channel containing over 40 sketches that he has both written and directed, plus two quizzes, one on theatre in general, the other on Shakespeare.