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How to Act review at Summerhall Theatre, Edinburgh – ‘acting masterclass’

Jade Ogugua and Robert Goodale in How to Act. Photo: Tim Morozzo Jade Ogugua and Robert Goodale in How to Act. Photo: Tim Morozzo
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There is a gloriously meta moment in Graham Eatough’s How to Act, staged by the National Theatre of Scotland, when guest lecturer Anthony Nicholl pronounces with provocative pomposity that real theatre is dead – and derides a string of supposedly modern forms, including immersive theatre.

Nicholl is of course a character, played with quiet conviction by Robert Goodale, in a play in which the audience are treated as if they were participants in an acting workshop. Several are even on stage, including Jade Ogugua’s Promise, the student chosen to take part in Nicholl’s masterclass. Both Ogugua and Goodale are utterly convincing in their roles.

In this fiction there are two people who will have two different views on the truth – and it would not be theatre if it didn’t turn out that this was the same truth. It is the discovery of what this truth is which gives How to Act its sparkle, a clever playing with the immersive form, so that the inevitable – and obvious – comes out with candour.

Underneath it all, Eatough is adding his voice to the debate about colonialism. He brings Britain’s history in West Africa into the view in such a way as to understand that its imperialism is not just a thing of the past, while showing just why the white male gaze might not be the most constructive way of explaining that past. Theatre is far from dead.

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Acting masterclass develops into deeply political examination of British history