The story of the origins and growth of Britain's Royal National Theatre is one of continual struggle against bureaucracy, skepticism, critical opprobrium and neo-conservative politicos. In this first of two documentaries, the first fifty years of the institution are recalled; how the dream for the Theatre originated as long ago as the late nineteenth century; how the foundation-stone was laid in the early Fifties; and how the Theatre as an institution took years to come into being. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this program is the way it recollects the Olivier era, when the National was based at the Old Vic; despite limitations - both spatial as well as financial - the company produced a series of groundbreaking productions and attracted a roster of stars that were the envy of the West End. The only possible snag was that perhaps its operations were too much centered around one man - Olivier himself. When his powers of administration as well as acting-ability began to decline in the late Sixties, so the company's fortunes suffered; many of the big names who had hitherto associated themselves with the National moved to other areas, leaving the company bereft of star names and top-notch directors. By the mid-Seventies, the National was rather in the doldrums - until Peter Hall came over from the Royal Shakespeare Company to direct it. This documentary is liberally illustrated with archive footage as well as interviews with many of those who were associated with the National during its glory days. Definitely worth a look.
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