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Michael Coveney is one of the country's most respected writers on theatre. Formerly staff critic for the Financial Times, the Observer and the Daily Mail, he has since 2006 been the chief critic for the leading West End website WhatsOnStage.com. He has unprecedented access to Dame Maggie Smith's personal archives and curated the recent BFI season of her film and television work. His previous books include The Citz, The Aisle is Full of Noises, The Andrew Lloyd Webber Story, The World According to Mike Leigh, Knight Errant: Memoirs of a Vagabond Actor (with Robert Stephens) and Ken Campbell: The Great Caper. He lives in Hampstead, north London.
From her days as a star of West End comedy and revue, Dame Maggie's path would cross with those of the greatest actors, playwrights and directors of the era. Whether stealing scenes from Richard Burton (by his own admission), answering back to Laurence Olivier, or impressing Ingmar Bergman, her career can be seen as a Who's Who of British theatre in the twentieth century. This book also covers her success in Hollywood, inaugurated by her first Oscar for her signature film, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, as well as her subsequent departure to Canada for a prolific four-season run of leading theatre roles. Recently Dame Maggie has been as prominent on our screens as ever, with high-profile roles as Violet Crawley, the formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham, in the phenomenally successful television series Downton Abbey, and as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter film franchise: what she herself describes as 'Miss Jean Brodie in a wizard's hat'. Yet paradoxically she remains an enigmatic figure, rarely appearing in public and carefully guarding her considerable talent. Michael Coveney's absorbing biography, drawing on personal archives, interviews and encounters with the actress, as well as conversations with immediate family and dear friends, is therefore as close as it gets to seeing the real Maggie Smith.
London is the undisputed theatre capital of the world. From world-famous musicals to West End shows, from cutting-edge plays to Shakespeare in its original staging, from outdoor performance to intimate fringe theatre, the range and quality are unsurpassed. Leading theatre critic Michael Coveney invites you on a tour of forty-five theatres that make the London stage what it is. With stories of the architecture, the people and the productions which have defined each one, alongside sumptuous photographs by Peter Dazeley of the public areas, auditorium and backstage, this illustrated overview of London's Theatres is a book like no other. A must for fans of the stage!
'Coveney is the only writer who could get under Smith's skin, capturing her steeliness and vulnerability' INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY From her days as a star of West End comedy and revue, Dame Maggie's path has led to international renown and numerous accolades including two Academy Awards. Recently she has been as prominent on our screens as ever, with high-profile roles as the formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham in DOWNTON ABBEY, as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the HARRY POTTER movie franchise and as the eccentric Miss Shepherd in the film version of THE LADY IN THE VAN by Alan Bennett. Paradoxically she remains an enigmatic figure, rarely appearing in public and carefully guarding her considerable talent. Drawing on personal archives, interviews and encounters with the actress, as well as conversations with immediate family and dear friends, Michael Coveney's biography is a captivating portrait of the real Maggie Smith.
Ken Campbell (1941-2008) was a one-man whirlwind who tore through the British theatre establishment using well-rehearsed anarchy and a genius for surreal comedy. Starting out in rep at Stoke-on-Trent, he founded the Ken Campbell Road Show, whose members included the then-unknown Bob Hoskins and Sylvester McCoy, and which toured pubs and clubs with dramatised urban myths and shaggy-dog stories. His later shows included Illuminatus! - the first show at the National Theatre's studio - and the 22-hour The Warp, the longest play in the world. On television he played corrupt lawyer Alex Gladwell in the 1970s series Law and Order, and was Alf Garnett's neighbour Fred Johnson in the sitcom In Sickness and in Health. He later found a devoted audience with his mesmerising one-man shows, which he toured worldwide. Theatre critic Michael Coveney was given unrestricted access to Campbell's letters, notebooks and original scripts. From these and from interviews with Campbell's many devoted/bemused collaborators, he has chronicled the life of the anarchic and uncompromising genius that was Ken Campbell.