Literary Management at the National Theatre, London: An Interview with John Russell Brown

Richard Beacham

John Russell Brown has been an Associate Director and Literary Manager at the National Theatre of Great Britain since 1973. He has written many books on Shakespeare and contemporary theatre.

Beacham: Britain doesn't have a strong tradition of theatrical literary managers or dramaturgs. Do you see historically any rough equivalent in British theater for the type of work that you do here?

Brown: Not really. I think the first one was Kenneth Tynan when he was brought in by Olivier as the "Literary Manager" of the National Theatre. But the theater's always had contacts with universities. Barry Jackson at the Birmingham Rep was a very close personal friend of Professor Allardyce Nicoll. At the Malvern festivals along with late Bernard Shaw plays were revivals of strange plays like Woman Killed with Kindness, Merry Devil of Edmonton, Jacob and Essau: for all those Allardyce did act as a kind of dramaturg, literary adviser to Barry Jackson. I suppose that you could say Gilbert Murray, particularly for the Euripides translations, was a kind of literary adviser for Granville-Barker at the Court.

Beacham: Was Granville-Barker himself such as person?

Brown: Well, Granville-Barker was an actor, director, and playwright; he wasn't free for academic speculation or scholarly research; all that came later in his case. He moved towards

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