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As if by Chance Reviews

As if by Chance by David Lan

As if by Chance: Journeys, Theatres, Lives

David Lan

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: Faber & Faber
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication date: 20 Feb 2020
ISBN: 9780571357796

Woven through it all is his decades long relationship with playwright Nicholas Wright. At times hilarious and always deeply felt, David Lan's deft travels evoke a wildly varied life in theatre as well as a unique theatre of life.

4 stars out of 5
26 Mar 2020

"From guerrilla warfare in Zimbabwe to drama at the Young Vic, the playwright and stage director captures a varied life well lived"

To read the book is to swim in someone else’s memory, unsure what is real, and what has been damaged or retinted by the passage of time, and by the memoirist’s ability to dramatise. Lan writes in that risky tense, the historical present, but readers who think themselves allergic to it should take some form of literary antihistamine and jump in. The book’s disarray of scenes and tenses, its slippery use of time, has a purpose. Lan is linking memory with theatre, and theatre with life. The narrative is constantly reconfiguring itself, like the auditorium of the Young Vic. He intercuts a drama on stage with a drama in his life, using dozens of quick-fire scene changes. Madame Ranevskaya, as she mourns her drowned son in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, is spliced with his own mother, grieving his brother’s death from polio. Disconcertingly, he never employs a trio of asterisks – a literary black-out – to indicate the break between fiction and memory. Threads of recollection, truth and trickery are tightly interwoven through the book, linking the uncertainties of remembrance past with the uncertainties of theatre: the illusion of a reality that can seem more real than real life.


4 stars out of 5
Alexander Larman
23 Feb 2020

"Heartfelt, inspirational and evocative"

The acclaimed former artistic director of the Young Vic begins these lyrical reminiscences in South Africa, chronicling his sexual awakening and emerging interest in the stage. But he is never bound by chronology, instead dealing with his work thematically and impressionistically. Heartfelt, inspirational and evocative.