Jonathan Miller: Drama and Perception
Chair: Kate Bassett
Jonathan Miller is one of the most multitalented Britons of his generation: an internationally celebrated opera and theatre director, a physician, writer and TV personality. Noted for his dazzling intelligence and anti-establishmentarian wit, he is one of postwar Britain's most intriguing intellectuals.
In what will be only the second public conversation between Miller and his unofficial biographer, Kate Bassett – Miller has not read the book – he will contemplate the nature of the gaze and the relationship between looking at pictures and looking in pictures. These are ideas he has continued to develop since curating the 1998 National Gallery exhibition “Mirror Image: Jonathan Miller On Reflection”.
Miller will also discuss the nature of action; what he considers to be crucial skills in the craft of stage directing, and his theory of ‘subsequent performances’, which explains why there is no such thing as a definitive production and how dramas can be ‘renovated’ or gain ‘afterlives’ through ever-modulating productions and subjective viewings.
Jonathan Miller shot to fame as a star in the ground-breaking 1960 satirical revue Beyond the Fringe, alongside Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett. His expertise and interests encompass many areas, from medicine (he was writer and presenter of the 1970s BBC series The Body in Question) to the history of art, Mozart, atheism and the nature of laughter. The New York Times said of him: "He knows more than a little about everything. He combines qualities that shouldn't be contained in one person: he is both a performer and a thinker".
Miller was born into an intellectual milieu between Bloomsbury and Harley Street – the son of a novelist and a leading child psychiatrist. He trained as a doctor but then forged a career as a stellar comedian and a world-renowned theatre and opera director.
Kate Bassett is author of In Two Minds: A Biography of Jonathan Miller, published in 2012. She is a theatre critic for The Times and a freelance arts journalist. She has previously worked for The Independent on Sunday and the Daily Telegraph among many other publications, writing features and reviews. She twice chaired the Perrier Comedy Awards. Her book is the first major biography of Jonathan Miller.