Garrick emerges from this book as one of the most splendid figures of the English 18th century and one of the happiest. He combined an electrifying stage presence with a reputation as a talented theatrical impressario; an ability to lead, inspire and cajole others made the Theatre Royal the theatrical light of its age. Garrick's popularity, together with his financial interest in Drury Lane, gave him security and social standing unequalled by any of his predecessors or contemporaries; he became the intimate of dukes and duchesses, portrait painters and prime ministers, bishops and bluestockings.
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It's the obvious question. How does one celebrate the elusive art of an actor whose traditional legacy lies in the memory and especially one who trod the boards pre- celluloid? It would seem a pointless exercise. David Garrick, however, was much more than a vainglorious luvvie (though he was that as well) and Ian McIntyre chooses the circumstantial route to reconstitute his hero, something he achieves gloriously. Assembling a first-class cast, which includes Samuel Johnson (Garrick's contemporary from Lichfield), Sheridan, Handel, Goldsmith and Gainsborough, he could hardly fail and the huge cornucopia of artistic riches yields a canvas of Hogarthian proportions (who incidentally painted him): Exhaustive and occasionally exhausting. Garrick's first major stage appearance, in 1741 as Richard III, won him tumultuous acclaim and he was rarely to look back. He was, in a sense, the first method actor; eager for naturalism and equally adept at comedy and tragedy, he almost single-handedly did away with contrived thespian conventions. His busy, intimate style ("all bustle")re-ignited an art form that previously had been only a remove from crime and prostitution. In addition, he wrote prologues, verse and a clutch of very competent plays, and as manager of the Drury Lane Theatre for 20 years, he oversaw vast improvements in lighting, set design and general conditions at a time when the theatrical arena was inclined to resemble a modern-day football ground. Macintyre crowns Garrick "Shakespeare's vicaron earth" and certainly he was responsible for establishing the cult of "Bardolatry"--a dubious accolade, but manna to McIntyre, for his chapter describing Garrick's involvement in the 1769 Shakespeare Jubilee at Stratford, a disastrous affair which lasted three days and saw not a play of Shakespeare's actually performed, is a delicious highlight. With his many years' experience at BBC television, McIntyre obviously knows a thing or two about luvvies, and he gives them enjoyably indulgent scope to demonstrate their bitchiness and high drama, which is mostly played out, naturally, off- stage.
Somehow this is the first major work on Garrick for more than 40 years, yet McIntyre makes up for the lack impressively, drawing on a wealth of correspondence, literature and theatre records to document a theatrical luminary of serious import, whose life in itself was successfully unspectacular, but which in context ignites like a flare of limelight. --David Vincent
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Book Description Trafalgar Square, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0140283234