Christine Eccles was commissioned to write a book about the Royal Court. Max Stafford-Clark tolerated it. Stephen Daldry hated it. So just what went wrong?

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It all began in 1991 when Max Stafford-Clark, the former artistic director of the Royal Court, agreed to my proposition that I record a year in the life of the theatre for eventual publication by Nick Hern Books. A public institution like the Royal Court ought not to avoid examination.

It has obviously proved uncomfortable. The Royal Court is now trying to stave off publication. At the time Stafford-Clark said: "You can be like a theatre cat slinking in and out of the shadows, with the right to come and go as you please. And, with a few exceptions - no way, for example, would playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker allow me to attend her rehearsals - Stafford-Clark kept to his word. During that year I was the silent presence at every meeting, the unseen guest at every play.

Occasionally there were attempts to draw me into an active role, by soliciting an opinion on a script or by getting me to read in at auditions, but I refrained from changing the course of theatrical history. Except, that is, for the time when I banged the fire doors during Lesley Manville's big moment in Top Girls, and earned a withering comment in that night's show report. The danger of becoming the main protagonist of the piece was always a possibility.

The hapless reporter up against closed doors is a familiar role for journalists today, but the Court promised that in the fullness of time all the doors would be opened. Indeed, after the event Stafford-Clark did quote freely from his rehearsal diaries; Graham Cowley, the theatre manager, detailed the West End salary war behind Death and the Maiden; and Stephen Daldry, the victorious candidate for Stafford-Clark's job (in the face of Stafford-Clark's own application) recounted the awkward negotiations conducted by John Mortimer, chairman of the board.

There was no reason for the book to be anything other than a straightforward backstage journal. As such it was similar in intent to Danny Danziger's account of the London Philharmonic Orchestra in his recent book, The Orchestra. However, unlike Danziger's account, which was based entirely on interviews, the deal was always that a draft typescript would be shown to key personnel, not for authorisation, but for corrections. Inaccuracies are inevitable with a project based as much on reportage as it is on interview.

This time last year, Stafford-Clark, who by then had left the Royal Court, duly read the draft and pointed out seven such errors. Daldry, meanwhile, let it be known that he was extremely unhappy with the whole thing. Months went by without further clarification. Re-hashing the issue of succession, he finally noted, filled him "with despair". Rumours started to circulate.

Director Simon Curtis, who features in a walk-on role as candidate for artistic director, wrote to the publisher, worried that the book's "effect will be to confirm people's worst prejudices about the theatre community".

It's true that those involved in the theatre have become terrified that they will be accused of "luvviedom", a phrase that everyone has come to regret, including those who most use it.

There is an enormous interest in backstage sagas. It seems as if everyone is keeping a diary. Theatre community beware! The actor scribbling notes in rehearsal may be about to publish. Actor and director Brian Cox has done it. Film actor Richard E Grant is poised to do it. Most recently, Simon Gray has told us in blow-by-blow detail what "really went on" in the making of his flop Cell Mates. Undoubtedly it's what went on for Gray, the writer and the director. But when an author has an axe to grind and his book gives no access to other points of view, charges of historical revisionism cannot be far away.

"Riddled with inaccuracies, untrue and gratuitous remarks," is how Daldry sums up my book, refusing to honour the agreement to check the text on the grounds that "it would cost me in the region of 30 hours or four days". But, asks Stafford-Clark, "what exactly is actionable about it?" It's a reasonable question, and one that the editor of this piece is also keen to have answered.

Tuesday 8 August. I leave messages for both Daldry and his press officer, saying that I wish to contact him.

Thursday 10 August. I ring again. Marieke, Daldry's assistant, rings me back wanting more information for him. She tells me that Daldry is aware that he owes me lunch. She promises faithfully to get back to me tomorrow.

Friday 11 August. The telephone remains silent. This is typical of my (non-existent) relationship with Daldry over the past year. He displays charm - hence the lunch - but eludes interrogation - hence the silence.

Saturday 12 August, 4pm. An apologetic Marieke finally rings back. Daldry has decided to decline to comment, although he is aware that we have things to settle, whatever that means.

An independent publisher such as Nick Hern Books simply can't afford to take the risk of publishing and being damned (and, given its long and continuing relationship with Royal Court writers, has, in Nick Hern's words, "no interest in pissing in its own bed"). It's ironic that a theatre like the Royal Court, which built its reputation on flouting the laws of censorship, should adopt such prima-donna-style behaviour. "There are careless remarks, off-hand remarks about writers, which I regret," says Stafford-Clark, "but the book seems to me to be a detailed account of day-to-day decisions that will be of no surprise to anyone involved in either theatre or publishing."

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