Billington, Michael 1939-
BILLINGTON, Michael 1939-
PERSONAL: Born November 16, 1939, in Leamington Spa, England; son of Alfred Robert (an accountant) and Patricia (Bradshaw) Billington; married Jeanine Bradlaugh, December 12, 1978; children: Natasha Alexandra. Education: St. Catherine's College, Oxford, B.A., 1961. Hobbies and other interests: Opera, cricket.
ADDRESSES: Home—15 Hearne Rd., London W4 3NJ, England. Office—Guardian, 119 Farringdon Rd., London EC1 3ER, England. Agent—Curtis Brown, Haymarket House, 28-29 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4SP. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Lincoln Theatre Company, public liaison officer and director, 1962-64; London Times, London, England, deputy drama and film critic, 1965-71, television critic, 1968-70; Guardian, London, drama critic, 1971—. Film critic for Illustrated London News and Birmingham Post, 1968—; drama critic for Country Life. Presenter of Kaleidoscope and Critics' Forum on British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) Radio. Visiting professor of Drama, King's College, London.
MEMBER: Critics' Circle.
AWARDS, HONORS: Named critic of the year by International Press Corp., 1974.
The Modern Actor, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1973.
How Tickled I Am: A Celebration of Ken Dodd, David & Charles (London, England), 1977.
(Editor) Performing Arts: A Guide to Practice and Appreciation, foreword by Sir John Gielgud, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1980.
The Guinness Book of Facts and Feats: Theatre, Guinness Superlatives (London, England), 1982.
Alan Ayckbourn, Macmillan (London, England), 1983, Grove Press (New York, NY), 1984, 2nd edition, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1990.
Stoppard, the Playwright, Methuen (New York, NY), 1987.
Peggy Ashcroft, J. Murray (London, England), 1988.
(Editor) Approaches to "Twelfth Night," Nick Hern Books (London, England), 1990.
One Night Stands: A Critic's View of British Theatre from 1971-1991, Nick Hern Books (London, England), 1993, revised as One Night Stands: A Critic's View of Modern British Theatre, 2001.
The Life and Work of Harold Pinter, Faber (London, England), 1996.
(Editor) Stage and Screen Lives, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Contributor to TV Guide and New York Times.
SIDELIGHTS: Michael Billington has served as the theatre critic for the Guardian newspaper in England since 1971. Commenting on his long tenure at the paper, Billington stated in a brief article posted at the Guardian Web site: "People ask me how I keep going and retain my apparent enthusiasm. The short, Johnsonian answer is that the man or woman who is bored with theatre is bored with life."
In One Night Stands: A Critic's View of British Theatre from 1971-1991, Billington offers a selection of the many theatrical reviews and articles he has written over the years. Michael Mangan in Theatre Research International believed that Billington's collection "is bound to be one of the books to which future generations of theatre historians will turn in order to build up their picture of theatrical culture in late twentieth-century Britain."
Billington is also the author of The Life and Work of Harold Pinter, a look at the career of one of England's most honored playwrights and the first full-length biography to be published on Pinter. While providing a chronicle of Pinter's life, Billington also examines each of his major works and uncovers possible literary and particularly biographical sources for the plays. "In his singular use of biography as context for Pinter's plays," wrote Susan Rusinko in World Literature Today, "Billington has succeeded in cracking the myth that Pinter's plays spring solely from his fertile imagination." Jack Helbig in Booklist praised Billington's "exhaustive critical biography" for its "fine literary scholarship." John F. Deeney, writing in Modern Drama, found that "Billington brings to his study a knowledge and understanding of the work in performance which, hitherto, has been somewhat absent from treatments of Pinter."
Billington once told CA: "I am principally a drama critic; I feel the job chose me as much as I chose it. I feel an ungovernable urge to set down my impression of plays and performances that I have seen. But it can be a very monastic profession. Therefore I enjoy the exposure to other arts that comes from doing a monthly film column and from doing radio arts programs which give me a chance to discuss books, television, opera, and ballet."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Theatre, September, 1997, Michael Barnwell, review of The Life and Work of Harold Pinter, p. 57.
Booklist, March 15, 1997, Jack Helbig, review of TheLife and Work of Harold Pinter, p. 1220.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, October, 1997, W. Baker, review of The Life and Work of Harold Pinter, p. 294.
Modern Drama, fall, 1997, John F. Deeney, review of The Life and Work of Harold Pinter, p. 423.
New Theatre Quarterly, February, 1998, John Stokes, review of The Life and Work of Harold Pinter, p. 94.
Publishers Weekly, January 20, 1997, review of TheLife and Work of Harold Pinter, p. 38.
Spectator, October 12, 1996, David Sexton, review of The Life and Work of Harold Pinter, p. 42.
Theatre Journal, March, 1997, William C. Boles, review of One Night Stands, p. 96.
Theatre Research International, summer, 1994, Michael Mangan, review of One Night Stands, p. 177.
World Literature Today, winter, 1998, Susan Rusinko, review of The Life and Work of Harold Pinter, p. 142.
Guardian Online,http://www.guardian.co.uk/ (November 4, 2003).