Taking things personally

Trevor Nunn's paranoia knows no bounds. In his interview with Johann Hari (Interview, 22 October) he accuses me of "virulently" attacking Nicholas Nickleby: I simply asked, as did others, whether it was part of the RSC's brief to stage adaptations of Victorian novels when there were so many foreign classics awaiting discovery.

It also seems to me a matter of legitimate concern that, in the case of Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady and South Pacific, the National Theatre is being used as a heavily subsidised launchpad for commercially exploitable musicals. In the 12 months following March 2001, incidentally, musicals will have occupied 32 playing weeks in the Olivier and Lyttelton Theatres. That strikes me as excessive.

When Nunn has done good work at the National, as with Troilus and Cressida, Summerfold and The Relapse, I have flung my cap in the air. When the programme has looked unbalanced, I have candidly said so. What I cannot fathom about Trevor Nunn is that, unlike his distinguished predecessors, he seems to regard all criticism as a sign of personal enmity.

Michael Billington
London W4

This article first appeared in the 05 November 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The rise and rise of President Blair