Buzz Buzz! Playwrights, Actors and Directors at the National Theatre

Interviewed by Jonathan Croall
Methuen Drama

Buzz Buzz! presents a kind of journalistic overview of work at the National Theatre over the last fifteen years. It contains over 100 interviews with the main players who have helped to make this institution what it is today.

The book is divided into three sections:Playwrights on Their Plays, Adaptations and Musicals and Actors and Directors at Work. It is obvious that when the average interview lasts only two pages, Jonathan Croall can do no more than give a brief impression of the work under consideration. That is both the strength and the weakness of Buzz Buzz!

It works best by surveying so many productions. In this way, by going through it from cover to cover, the reader can learn about the creative imperative at the National Theatre in a period of transition and frequent artistic and commercial success.

Jonathan Croall is good at investigating specific aspects of plays and by doing so, giving a feel of what they are like or what an individual production was trying to achieve. He does not go into any great depth, most of his pieces being a kind of length that one would expect to find in a relatively short newspaper profile.

The collection of interviewees is impressive to say the very least. It starts with Alan Bennett, Tom Stoppard and Tony Kushner but includes other writers such as David Hare, Patrick Marber, Michael Frayn and Harold Pinter.

The directors inevitably include Peter Hall and Nicholas Hytner from the home team in addition to the likes of Max Stafford Clark, Katie Mitchell and Ian Rickson.

The actors do not lose out either presenting the kind of cast that any director would love to work with including Simon Russell Beale, Ian McKellen, Fiona Shaw and Diana Rigg.

Buzz Buzz! is a great read, ideal for short train journeys or those few minutes prior to going to sleep. With its representation from so many different areas of theatre and the practitioners' insights into their work, it should prove popular even if the cover price is somewhat prohibitive for relatively slim paperback.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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