Letters from Tyrone Guthrie
Rise above!: Letters from Tyrone Guthrie details the life of the celebrated theatrical director whose influence on international theatre lives on. Here, in a stunning volume of letters, we are offered a glimpse into the vision of this extraordinary figure as well as a view of the intimacies of his relationships with his mother, sister, wife and friends.
During the 1940s and 1950s Guthrie was renowned for liberating the plays of Shakespeare from declamatory delivery and excessive staging. His most enduring legacy was inspiring the creation of modern theatre buildings where the plays of antiquity could be brought closer to the audience, such as at Stratford, Canada, and the theatre that bears his name in Minneapolis, USA. Of Scots-Irish parentage, he identified most closely with his mother’s home at Annaghmakerrig, Co. Monaghan, which he made his professional headquarters after her death, hosting producers, designers, playwrights and composers there while planning worldwide productions. Guthrie’s letters to his mother, Norah, his wife, Judith, and his sister, Peggy, give a balanced account of his professional and domestic life, and it was on the advice of his sister and her husband, Hubert Butler, that he left his mother’s house to the Irish nation as a workplace for writers and artists.
Faced with often seemingly insurmountable financial and personal disaster, his celebrated mantra ‘Rise above!’ was testament to a life lived in the wings of an operatic opening night or a Shakespearean tragedy. Guthrie’s vivid descriptions of places visited are matched by the observational skills of his remarks on the people he worked with, among them well-known figures such as Benjamin Britten, Alec Guinness, Charles Laughton, Siobhán McKenna, Micheál MacLíammóir, the Oliviers and others. Family members come in for as many amused comments as do the famous and distinguished: Cousin Molly is no more spared than Sir Winston Churchill. Fitz-Simon has gathered an important, and entrancing, collection of Tyrone Guthrie’s letters, raising a curtain on the life of Ireland’s leading theatre director of the twentieth-century.
Christopher Fitz-Simon is a former Artistic Director of the Irish Theatre Company, the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, and the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. He has lectured in Ireland, Britain, Canada, the US, South America and throughout Europe. Among his books are The Boys (2002), Eleven Houses (2007) and Buffoonery and Easy Sentiment (2011).