Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Tynan

Philip Goodwin in Tynan at the Studio Theatre. Photo credit: Carol Pratt

Anyone who arrives at self-knowledge through desperation is the raw material for a great play.
– Kenneth Tynan

Watching Tynan reminded me that I should make sure my journals get burned at my death (oh wait, what about that online diary in the cloud? too late!). No matter how we are in life, the voice we give free rein to in our diary is by its nature egocentric. Does it make for good drama?

Richard Nelson and Colin Chambers adapted The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan into a one-man play, helmed in this special engagement by beloved DC actor Philip Goodwin at the Studio Theatre. It’s a monologue of choice (and not-so-choice) moments from the last ten years of Tynan’s life, a man many consider the greatest theater critic of the last century. There’s a heavy resignation in listening to the musings of a dying man, and this adaptation is more a conventional staged reading than anything approaching the revolutionary theater Tynan championed. Unless of course, you think it’s subversive to hear all about his fascination with canings and an anal fixation to rival the Marquis de Sade’s – there’s a lot of that to listen to in this adaptation. As the impresario behind Oh! Calcutta and the first person to drop the f-bomb on the BBC in 1965, Tynan was a famous proponent of obscenity, so it isn’t completely out of place.

If you have a theatrical background there are fun anecdotes of personalities like Olivier to keep your interest, and if you are familiar with Tynan’s work, enough of his philosophy comes through to inspire. But if you know nothing about him, I’m not sure you’ll get anything more than a sad sense of a once-brilliant man being wrung thin by sickness, debauchery and the end of life.

And where’s the relevance in that? (Tynan would’ve spanked me for asking that!) Continue reading