Thursday, September 20, 2012

Five notable books about life in the theatre

Simon Callow is an actor, director, and writer. He has appeared in many films, including the hugely popular Four Weddings and a Funeral (he played Gareth). His books include Being an Actor, Shooting the Actor, a highly acclaimed biography of Charles Laughton, a biographical trilogy on Orson Welles (of which the first two parts have now been published), and Love Is Where It Falls, an account of his friendship with the great play agent Peggy Ramsay. His recent books include My Life in Pieces, which won the Sheridan Morley Prize in 2011, and Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World.

One of his five best books about life in the theatre, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Next Season
by Michael Blakemore (1968)

Blakemore is a highly distinguished director, both in the West End and on Broadway, but unlike many directors of the present age he started as an actor. He has written a dazzling memoir of his early days in the theater, 2004's "Arguments With England" (he is Australian by origin), but his only novel, set in what is recognizably the Stratford-upon-Avon of the late 1950s—when great theatrical beasts like Olivier and Laughton still walked the land—is an incomparable account of life inside a great company viewed from the other ranks. The stars are precisely and illuminatingly etched, and the frustrating experience of an ambitious but disappointed young actor is painfully conveyed. The novel depicts a turning point in the British theater, just before the foundation of the Royal Shakespeare Co. and the National Theatre, the point at which directors finally wrested control from actors. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the book is its depiction of the awakening sensibility of a director of genius, Blakemore himself.
Read about another book on Callow's list.

See--Simon Callow's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue