Interviews

Here, There, Gone: An Interview with Sir Nicholas Hytner

Nicholas Hytner’s Othello was so good I saw it twice.  It’s not the first time Sir Nick has wowed the critics.  And I somehow doubt it will be the last as I wait outside his office, fallen into an appropriately gelatinous state to accompany the close English summer heat.  I perch comfortably, staring at black-and-white action shots of hit after hit: Adrian Lester in Henry V, Simon Russell Beale in Much Ado About Nothing, James Corden in One Man, Two Guv’nors.  If there’s such thing as a grammar of theatre, Hytner is fluent in it. These days, he needs little introduction: the Cambridge alumnus who arrived at the National Theatre in 1990 via the English National Opera, the Leeds Playhouse and the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester has become one of Britain’s most well-respected directors.  One bookshelf in his office hosts a glass poster for One Man, Two Guv’nors; another …

An Interview with Peter Hitchens: Shouting into the Wind

“I didn’t arrange that,” Peter Hitchens blushes.  A stranger has just told him of her appreciation for everything he stands for and, for once, he’s been caught off guard, disarmed by praise.  The stone wall of rhetoric, dogmatic conviction and obduracy against which I’ve been fighting an attritional struggle for the past hour is felled in an instant.  And I can’t help feeling relieved. We’re in Starbucks showing our solidarity with their tax avoidance – well, Hitchens is.  “I’m a very bad interviewer,” he opens, slipping into the rich baritone of the ‘Hitchens’ voice that so melodiously beguiles and bewitches, “partly because I’m usually more interested in myself than the other person.”  And he has reason to be.  After all, Peter Hitchens is a hell of a lot more interesting than most other people; I’ll give him that.  Columnist and blogger for The Mail on Sunday; author of five books …

Spare a thought for philosophy: An interview with A.C. Grayling

“As Bertrand Russell said, ‘Most people would rather die than think; most people do’,” quips A.C. Grayling, leaning forward as though offering me a truffle of wisdom for my delectation.  Philosophy is a rather strange business in the modern world of consumerism and commerce, I suppose.  We’re so used to being force-fed ideas these days that we rarely, if ever, dare to stop and think for ourselves.  And that’s where Grayling bucks the trend. Author of over twenty books including a secular bible (‘The Good Book’) as well as countless newspaper and magazine columns, Grayling has been a paradigm of humanism for many years: Vice President of the British Humanist Association, patron of Dignity in Dying, Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society… the list goes on.  And yet, had I anticipated some sort of stuffy Socratic dialogue with a kooky academic or a living, breathing replica of Rodin’s Thinker …