Shakespeare on Theatre
Edited by Nick de Somogyi
Nick Hern Books
Shakespeare on Theatre is a rather different publication to its Chekhovian equivalent. In this case, since nothing remains of the Bard's writings apart from his plays and poetry, these are the source materials that Nick de Somogyi (who also provides a rather attractive cover illustration) has drawn upon.
In fact, the editor has looked rather more widely for material to fill this volume, using extracts from plays and poems of Shakespeare's contemporaries and some more modern writers including Stephen Sondheim, WB Yeats and Sir Tom Stoppard to supplement his diligent research into the man himself.
In an effort to give this book a satisfying structure, de Somogyi has divided the sections to make them replicate a play. Thus, following Prologues and Inductions, he starts with Auditions, Casting and Parts. Before we reach the opening, he also looks at the actors and designers preparations.
Perhaps the most fun comes in the sectional Fluffs, Prompts, Queues and Snags, although Audiences, Critics and Tours also has a lightness of tone.
The editor has clearly worked very hard to compile this book, which provides a different angle on Shakespeare from anything else recently published, which is in itself an achievement.
As such, Shakespeare on Theatre is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours, even if it adds little to the sum total of knowledge about perhaps the most popular biographical and critical subject to have lived at any point in the last 500 years.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher