The Life of Kenneth Tynan Essay - Critical Essays

Kathleen Tynan

The Life of Kenneth Tynan

Kenneth Tynan was the illegitimate son of Sir Peter Peacock, whose wife refused him a divorce. As Peter Tynan, Peacock lived in Birmingham with Kenneth’s mother, Rose. Two days a week, Tynan returned to the town of Warrington and discharged his civic duties as Peacock: businessman, justice of the peace, and sometimes mayor. Precocious and indulged as an only child, Kenneth Tynan attended Oxford University, where he studied under the distinguished author C.S. Lewis and established himself as a brilliant undergraduate inclined toward behavior calculated to outrage the traditionally minded.

Unsuccessful in his early efforts as an actor and director, Tynan turned to theater criticism, quickly developing a reputation as a gifted writer, equally intense in his scorn and his enthusiasms. His reviews were favorably compared to the work of George Bernard Shaw and Max Beerbohm.

While he continued to operate within, rather than outside, the English social system, Tynan’s politics evolved from a kind of Edwardian dandyism into radical positions. In concert with young playwrights and filmmakers, Tynan nurtured Britain’s artistic renaissance of the 1960’s. In the position of literary manager, teamed with Laurence Olivier, who was the artistic director, Tynan helped set the course of the country’s National Theater.

Tynan was also responsible for conceiving the revue OH! CALCUTTA! and bringing it to the stage. Strongly opposed to any...

(The entire section is 421 words.)