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Richard Eyre

Director Eyre attacked in a cafe over tell-all memoirs 

By Sebastian Shakespeare for the Daily Mail | Published: 01:50, 24 June 2015 |

Former National Theatre director Sir Richard Eyre

Former National Theatre director Sir Richard Eyre (pictured) has discovered that writing memoirs can be a very dangerous occupation - image © Getty Images

Nottingham Playhouse

Former National Theatre director Sir Richard Eyre has discovered that writing memoirs can be a very dangerous occupation.

At the Chalke Valley History Festival this week he revealed that he was assailed by someone who took exception to their portrayal in his book What Do I Know? People, Politics And The Arts, which was published last year. And he is still traumatised by the experience months afterwards. ‘I was in a coffee bar in Soho and suddenly somebody attacked me and I mean literally attacked me, threatened me, “How dare you write that about me”,’ Eyre recalled. ‘I’m not going to tell you who it was, but it was very, very disturbing.’

His book is a series of essays about people he has known and worked with over the years. They include pen portraits of Kate Winslet, playwright Alan Bennett and Dame Judi Dench, who is portrayed racing clockwork chicks across a table, her face ‘illuminated by demented glee’. ‘A friend of mine said, “You do know that whatever you write about people, they will always object, even if you say they cut their hair on the left when they cut their hair on the right, they will get angry with you”,’ continued Eyre.

‘I wish I could say he was wrong. There were quite unexpected moments where I thought I’d been very benign about somebody and somebody railed against me.’

Eyre, 72, is not a sensitive flower so he must have been comprehensively alarmed.

As well as having a highly successful theatre career he has directed several controversial films including Iris, a biographical movie of writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch co-starring Judi Dench and Kate Winslet, and Notes On A Scandal.

Maybe I should take a leaf out of Richard's experience and be circumspect about what I write on this web-site which is really only a recounting of my personal experiences - one of which, and why Richard Eyre is included on this page, is the fact that I worked with Richard Eyre for many years.

You have already read about my 'stitching up' Richard III which was part of my time with the Nottingham Playhouse as the Saturday Stage Door Keeper as I studied to gain my qualification in '3-Dimensional Design - Theatre' as it was grandly known. This was just one of my many 'brushes' with the famous and infamous who were transitory as productions changed seasonally. Richard Eyre, on the other hand was a permanent fixture, as was his partner (they were not yet married) Sue Birtwhistle who concentrated on the 'Theatre in the Round' initiative being run by the Nottingham Playhouse. As this was a peripatetic initiative, I did not know Sue as well as I did Richard. I remember him being a kind man who treated all of us from top-down in a truly appropriate manner! He appreciated the efforts of the non-acting personnel and always greeted us cheerfully. I have the greatest of admiration for Richard and all my memories of him are good. But I will take on board what has happened to him and perhaps not mention two incidents that between them caused me great mirth and a deal of anguish whilst I worked at the Playhouse - on the other hand, why shouldn't I? They happened and they impacted greatly on me!

Veterans at NP ProgrammeVeterans Cast List

The first relates to two actors Bob Hoskins and Ralph Nossek neither particularly well known at the time although Bob Hoskins was later to achieve global frame for his appearance in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit'. The second relates to James 'Likely Lad' Bolam and Frank Grimes who were supporting actors in a great touring production of 'Veterans.' More to come ......

Veterans Royal Court Programme Charles Wood Veterans

John Gielgud (1972) He acted in Wood's play, "Veterans," at the Royal Court Theatre in London, England with John Mills, Gordon Jackson, Frank Grimes, Bob Hoskins, and James Bolam in the cast. Ronald Eyre was director.

At the same time as Richard III was being stitched up by me in 1971 the McEnery Brothers descended on the Nottingham Playhouse and brought with them their version of 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead' by Tom Stoppard. Peter only came to star and direct but brother John had to earn his way by appearing as Ariel in 'The Tempest'. What a stellar cast that was - John met Stephanie Beacham and they got married, Stephanie and Angela Scoular both had yappy little dogs and they very nearly fell out as the pups kept trying to kill each other. Angela played Miranda and we had the adorable Paul Freeman as Ferdinand! Stephanie had to settle for playing a fairy and one of the others, a male actor called Reg (I think) insisted on putting twirling tassels on his brassiere and sending them all into fits of laughter (corpsing) during the dance scenes. Stephanie always remained loyal to Nottingham and filmed 'Connie' here, John went on to star as the 'good' Kerensky in 'Nicholas and Alexandra', Peter McEnery had the dubious honour, as he kept reminding us, of being the first to give Hayley Mills her maiden screen kiss, Angela went on to marry our 'loveable' Leslie. Paul Freeman played the villain in the first 'Indiana Jones' and that wasn't the first time he'd played a Nazi - he also starred in my (second) favourite soap of all time 'Falcon Crest' - for such a nice man he didn't half pick up some mean roles! So, it was a bit of a shock to read this article about John a few short weeks ago in the summer of 2017 :

NP Theatre PlaybillMcEnery headlines

l to r the Playbill showing the new season and the picture, relating to John's aberration (shame) must have been taken around the time I knew the two of them at the Playhouse!

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