Advice from the Players

Laura Barnett
Nick Hern Books

Advice from the Players

Journalist Laura Barnett has had the good fortune to draw on the wisdom of 26 leading actors in compiling a book that will prove invaluable to those seeking to follow in their footsteps but should also have appeal for general readers.

The list is really impressive including, amongst others, Simon Russell Beale, Sir Antony Sher, Julie Walters, Harriet Walter, Jane Asher, Simon Callow, Lenny Henry, Lesley Manville and Oliver Ford Davies.

These really are big hitters, but there are also some younger performers to offer a slightly different perspective.

The author has taken numerous topics and chosen the best short comments, typically soundbites of no more than 100 or so words, from selected contributors to illuminate the mysterious art of performance on stage and screen.

The subject matter is certainly varied, with such issues as "Confidence: The Magic Ingredient", "Building a Character", "Coping with Stage Fright", "Staying Sane When Things Go Wrong" and "Surviving the Tough Times" all getting suitably analysed.

Every aspect of acting is covered including work on stage (everything from Shakespeare to new writing), screen, in musicals and comedy.

The real value of this volume is the overview that it gives by drawing on the experience of so many leaders in their field. This means that there are frequently contradictions, which at least proves that acting can be an exciting and controversial profession.

By the end, readers will also have gathered that those making up this profession are as varied a bunch as in any other field of endeavour.

Advice from the Players is the kind of handbook that could well end up in Christmas stockings for those aspiring to join or already working in the profession.

Any recipient should be delighted to discover and read a copy, although those who are in any way uncertain about the joys of a career that is so unpredictable and at times unkind might well fall at the first hurdle. That is almost a certainty if they read the wisdom of somebody like Jane Asher who says of the business, "Don’t do it. Acting is heart-breaking, humiliating, crushing—and the chances of getting work are very remote".

While this is the kind of book that many will dip into either for information or fun, for example in advance of going to an audition, it can also be read straight through with enjoyment, providing passion, humour and information in equal measure.

However, despite these strictures she has made a successful job of it and like everyone else in this book, seems to have few regrets about her chosen profession.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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