Kenneth Tynan: In Praise of Hardcore

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Kenneth Tynan was a theatre critic and personality who was most well known for his work during the 1960's. 25 years after his death BBC3 commissioned a drama all about him...

Kenneth Tynan was a theatrical colossus of 1960's Swinging London.  Critic, impresario and dandy, he regularly courted controversy and his articles were celebrated for their incisive wit. With his second wife Kathleen (played here by Catherine McCormack) they were one of the most celebrated and glamorous couples of the time. Tynan had a close but self-destructive relationship with Laurence Olivier (played by Julian Sands) and this was explored in the drama. Tynan battled against censorship, mediocrity, out-dated attitudes and his own failing health, but he never lost the ability to light up a room with his humour and observations.

Rob Brydon, best known for his comedy work on Marion and Geoff and The Keith Barret Show played the  lead role of Kenneth Tynan with a light touch. However as this was his first "straight" role I was a little bemused as to  how seriously I should take him.

I knew nothing about Kenneth Tynan before watching this drama and very little about him afterwards.  The documentary that BBC3 showed immediately following In Praise of Hardcore was much more illuminating, showing Tynan to be more Larry Graysonesque that Brydon's performance revealed.

The main problem I had with the drama was that Tynan did not seem to be a particularly interesting character. He appeared to drift through life, and things happened to him.  His one achievement through the drama was the creation and staging of the world's first erotic review/musical "Oh Calcutta" but even here we see Tynan creating it out of pique and later trying hard to pull out of it altogether, so he could hardly be given full credit for such a dubious show anyway.

The drama also implies that by the end of it, Tynan was near death, but the documentary later on revealed he did not die till 1980, so I felt a little cheated by that.

The dialogue between the characters was also often a little stilted.  It felt that it was something that was written rather than spoken, and reading between the lines, I'm guessing that much of it may have been lifted from Tynan's diaries, though this was never mentioned during the drama.

All in all, while I am totally in praise of any new drama, I can not say that I am in praise of this one.  It was slow paced, with little plot, and didn't seem to have any aspirations to be seen beyond the minority audience of BBC3.

Page Last Updated Saturday, July 23, 2005 at 09:32:30