Letter: The rise of the director is to blame for the bland state of our national theatre

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The Independent Online
SO, according to Max Stafford-Clark, 'writers have a shorter rather than a long career'? And 'Shakespeare, Shaw and David Hare are the exceptions' (' 'Literary leper' Wesker attacks National's Eyre', 23 October)? Come again?

Sophocles, Moliere, de Vega, Ibsen, Pirandello, Brecht, O'Neill, Williams, Miller, Coward and Ayckbourn - short careers?

Notice, though, that a majority of these were/are directors too and had access to the means of production and so were mostly able to avoid having the stage-door slammed in their faces in middle-age. This expulsion has not been done by audiences or even critics but by directors, a comparatively new class of theatre-workers who began as colleagues but have become cocks on a dunghill. Only directors now have the power to decide what is good for the rest of us.

If directors could show that their dominance over the last 15 years had led to a new golden age in theatre or even to its healthy survival, their anger and arrogance might have some grounds. Instead their regime has pushed live drama to the margin of public interest. When Kenneth Tynan and Laurence Olivier (critic and actor) ran the National, newcomers had access to the main stage. Now we're back in the Victorian age where spectacles, pantomines and revivals ruled and from which not one important play survives.

All this bickering might have been kept within the family but, condemned without right of appeal, ageing writers turn to public protest. Stafford- Clark's spiteful response can only repel those few of the faithful public who have not already gone elsewhere for their fun. He might find solace in re- reading the best-known work of poor old flash-in-the-pan Sophocles (over 100 plays in 91 years), the one about the young man who kills his father.

Peter Nichols London NW3