March 3rd, 2005


Kenneth Tynan was Britain's greatest theatre critic. He did the job for ten years then got bored. Next he did ten years at the National Theatre, working alongside Olivier. The final ten years were itty-bitty- a bit of writing, a bit of producing, a lot of swanning round the globe eating big meals he couldn't afford. He smoked too much and died of lung disease at 53.

And somewhere in the middle of all this he devised "Oh Calcutta"- the tatty sex revue which was supposed to revolutionize theatre and which wound up being the longest running Broadway musical of all time.

Oh, and he's fondly remembered as the first person to say "fuck" on British TV.

I watched a TV play about him last night. Rob Bryden- a very funny man given the right material- was Tynan. And Julian Sands- hiding his embarrassment behind heavy rimmed glasses- gave us an impression of Olivier. The whole thing was very, very bad. Mainly it was gobbets from the Tynan diaries served up as dialogue, with Lord Larry as feed.

Lord Larry playing second fiddle? Give us a break!

There's a vogue for these plays/films about great mid-century talents in decline. In the last six months I've watched Peter Sellers, then Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and now Tynan crash and burn.

And the moral is.....

Don't get uppity?
Talent is not enough?
The paths of glory lead but to the grave?

Oh, enough of kicking corpses! These guys sit in judgement on us. At least they did something interesting with their lives.