Kenneth Peacock Tynan (1927–80) was one of Britain’s foremost theater critics, regarded by many as “the greatest theater critic since Shaw.”
Tynan was born in Birmingham as the illegitimate son of a self-made mogul. Though his father wanted him to become a lawyer, his mother often took him to the theater. He wrote his first review at the age of 16. After graduating from Oxford, Tynan became a critic for the Evening Standard and then The Observer, where he served from 1954 to 1963. He took a two-year hiatus as the drama critic of The New Yorker. He declared that a good critic recognizes what is important on the stage; a great one “perceives what is not happening.” Tynan was both.
In 1963, Tynan became the literary manager of the National Theater. As a skeptic of commercial theater, Tynan wielded enduring influence in the selection of the company’s repertory.