Stage Managing Chaos

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by Jackie Harvey, Tim Kelleher

Stage Managing Chaos: A Diary of the Old Vic Production of Fernando Arrabal’s The Architect and the Emperor of Assyria.

In the early 1970s London’s National Theatre, led by Sir Laurence Olivier, launched an infamous avant garde production of The Architect and the Emperor of Assyria. Concerned that his classical approach would clash with the “enfant terrible” director, Victor Garcia, Olivier enlisted stage manager Jackie Harvey to keep a diary of the often ludicrous, occasionally creative, always challenging rehearsals.

Anthony Hopkins and Jim Dale costarred in the surreal two-man piece. Led by the eccentric Garcia, the play quickly descended into a chaotic farce. Missed deadlines, technical hitches, unauthorized nudity and backstage feuds culminated in an unforgettable production, leaving the company debating: Was he a misunderstood genius or a brilliant con-artist?

Accompanied by recollections from Hopkins, Dale and others, along with photographs and documents that bring the key players to life, this unique diary provides a snapshot of a crucial period in the history of the National Theatre.

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