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Books for theatre professionals: October 5

Detail from the cover of Tipping the Velvet
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All About Theatre by National Theatre, Walker Books

All-About-Theatre-front-cover-artworkThis sumptuously illustrated (NT productions, staff and workshops of course) and clear book is one of the best information books for young people I’ve ever seen. From the very first page and NT Director Rufus Norris’s Introduction the book stresses that theatre is not just about acting. It then takes the reader thought the entire theatre making process from choosing a play to what happens after press night. The ‘tricks of the trade’ boxes are fun too: rubber crumbs for fake rust or mud, tongue twisters such as “The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick” for voice warning and all the rest of it. It should be in every school library and drama department so that any youngster with the slightest interest in theatre can get properly clued up – and entertained because there’s a lot of well-I-never stuff here such as that there are about 400 guns and 300 swords, all fake or decommissioned, from all periods of history in the National Theatre’s armoury.

Jane-EyreAnd a bumper crop of play texts from Oberon books…

It is always good to have the scripts of new plays, especially when they’re the current ones which everyone is talking about. It can help to read the text of a new play after you’ve seen it, or possibly before depending how you want to approach the theatre experience. And for students play texts are especially useful because, of course, it’s impossible to see everything and reading the text imaginatively is the next best thing.

Jane Eyre devised by the company and directed by Sally Cookson is currently playing in NT’s Lyttelton. Originally a two part Bristol Old Vic production, this feisty feminist piece begins in ensemble-with-music style at Jane’s birth and ends with her final marriage based upon equality of values to Mr Rochester. And it’s well worth reading, whether or not you’ve seen the show. A sparky lesson in adaptation along with its artistic merits.

Photpgraph-51The reviews of Laura Wade’s adaptation of Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (Lyric Hammersmith now and Royal Lyceum Edinburgh later this month) for an ensemble cast of 14, are just coming through at the time of writing. The novel is a compelling tale of late Victorian Sapphic love. Some reviewers say the show is not sexy enough and there are inevitable comparisons with the 2002 BBC TV version. Read the text and make up your own mind if you haven’t had – and/or won’t get – the chance to see it. You can read Natasha Tripney’s interview with Wade for The Stage here.

The Michael Grandage Company is currently presenting Anna Zeigler’s Photograph 51 starring Nicole Kidman at the Noel Coward Theatre. Meanwhile the Old Vic has Tamsin Oglesby’s Future Conditional. You can get the flavour of both plays – they’re totally different from each other – and learn a great deal about how plays are constructed from reading these just published texts.

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