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Two new training books

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If you’re thinking of auditioning at any level from securing a place at drama school all the way through to being seen for a plum part in the West End – then don’t go ahead without reading Auditions: the Complete Guide by Richard Evans CDG (Routledge, rrp £18.99) which is now out in a new and updated edition. Evans is a highly experienced casting director (and actor for 10 years before switching careers in 1989) and knows his subject inside out.

I contend that you can train to audition as you can for almost anything else you decide to do in life and this advice-packed book is effectively a training manual. Evans is very strong on telling the inexperienced how the system works and how to set about getting an audition in the first place – and it isn’t always via your agent as we all know. And he is gloriously practical – make sure your passport is up to date before applying for commercial casting which might take you abroad, avoid rustling the pages in a radio audition, don’t be sarcastic or facetious if you’re asked an awkward question and have enough breath for everything being a few examples. It may sound obvious but…

The chapter on drama and theatre school takes the reader through thinking about what he or she wants from a course before deciding whether, when and where to apply. And bearing in mind that potential students may be pretty new to the audition process he explains what to expect, how to prepare and, crucially, how to learn from the experience.

I think this is a very useful, down-to-earth book which deserves a place on the shelves of every actor or aspirant.

Secondly, on the grounds that any book which shares information is a training book because you can learn from it, I commend an imaginative way of celebrating Shakespeare450 which Nick Hern Books has just published. Shakespeare in 100 Objects: treasures from the Victoria and Albert Museum edited by Janet Birkett (rrp £19.99) takes us on a glorious, serendipitous tour around Shakespeare’s life, work and times via artefacts in the collection. Apart from the obvious things like the Great Bed of Ware, referenced in Twelfth Night and the sword presented to Edmund Kean for his 1819 performance in Macbeth there are lots of paintings, costumes, photographs, props, a real human skull (“Alas! poor Yorick.”) and much more.

The book, from which I learned loads, is accessibly laid out with a section for comedies, histories, tragedies and so on. Within those sections each object gets a quote to link it back to a specific play, art work and a short explanatory essay. For instance one of the chosen objects is a playbill advertising Richard III at Astley’s Circus (1860).  At the top of the page is “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse” and there’s a photograph of the playbill after an interesting two page account. It was the trained horses, I learned, rather than the actors who were the stars of this three act circus version of the play.

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