New and forthcoming

Balancing Acts

Nicholas Hytner

** BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week **

You start with a vision, and you deliver a compromise. You want a play to be challenging, ambitious, nuanced and complicated. You also want it to sell tickets. You want to make art, and you know you’re in show business. These are some of the balancing acts that the National Theatre, and this book, is about.

This is the inside story of twelve years at the helm of Britain’s greatest theatre. It is a story of lunatic failures and spectacular successes such as The History Boys, War Horse and One Man, Two Guvnors; of opening the doors of the National Theatre to a broader audience than ever before, and changing the public’s perception of what theatre is for. It is about probing Shakespeare from every angle and reinventing the classics. About fostering new talent and directing some of the most celebrated actors of our times. Its cast includes the likes of Alan Bennett, Maggie Smith, Mike Leigh, Daniel Day-Lewis, Michael Gambon and Helen Mirren.

Intimate, candid and insightful, Balancing Acts is a passionate exploration of the art and alchemy of making theatre.

Will In The World

Stephen Greenblatt

Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World is widely recognised to be the fullest and most brilliant account ever written of Shakespeare's life, his work and his age.

Shakespeare was a man of his time, constantly engaging with his audience's deepest desires and fears, and by reconnecting with this historic reality we are able to experience the true character of the playwright himself. Greenblatt traces Shakespeare's unfolding imaginative generosity - his ability to inhabit others, to confer upon them his own strength of spirit, to make them truly live as independent beings as no other artist has ever done.

Digging deep into the vital links between the playwright and his world, Will in the World provides the fullest account ever written of the living, breathing man behind the masterpieces.

Orson Welles, Volume 3

Simon Callow

In One-Man Band, the third volume in his epic survey of Orson Welles’ life and work, Simon Callow again probes in comprehensive and penetrating detail into one of the most complex artists of the twentieth century, looking closely at the triumphs and failures of an ambitious one-man assault on one medium after another – theatre, radio, film, television, even, at one point, ballet – in each of which his radical and original approach opened up new directions and hitherto unglimpsed possibilities.

The book begins with Welles’ self-exile from America, and his realisation that he could only function happily as an independent film-maker, a one-man band; by 1964, he had filmed Othello, which took three years to complete, Mr Arkadin, the biggest conundrum in his output, and his masterpiece Chimes at Midnight, as well as Touch of Evil, his sole return to Hollywood and, like all too many of his films, wrested from his grasp and re-edited. Along the way he made inroads into the fledgling medium of television and a number of stage plays, including Moby-Dick, considered by theatre historians to be one of the seminal productions of the century. Meanwhile, his private life was as dramatic as his professional life.

The book shows what it was like to be around Welles, and, with a precision rarely attempted before, what it was like to be him, in which lies the answer to the old riddle: whatever happened to Orson Welles?

Burton at the BBC

BBC Audio (and others)

Highlights from Richard Burton’s finest BBC radio performances from the 1940s to the 1980s.

Richard Burton was one of the most famous British actors of the twentieth century, renowned for his magical, mellifluous voice. Before Hollywood tempted him away, he worked frequently for the BBC and many of his most electrifying performances were recorded there.

This classic compilation features some of the very best of Burton, including his very first radio role in The Corn is Green; the heroic Roland in The Dark Tower; the apocalyptic poem 'Fire and Ice'; Henry V on the eve of Agincourt; the spine-tingling Under Milk Wood and the poignant In Parenthesis. Also included is the complete recording of Emlyn Williams’ suspenseful thriller Night Must Fall.

In addition, there are extracts from interviews in which Burton talks about Dylan Thomas, his love of rugby, his deepest ambition and his own feelings about his incomparable voice.

Whether performing Shakespeare, reading Robert Frost or simply talking about his life and career, Burton is never less than compelling, and this unique anthology is a superb tribute to one of the great icons of stage and screen.
Duration: 2 hrs 50 mins approx.

The Rules of Acting

Michael Simkins

Luvvies. Tyrannical directors. Useless agents. Less job security than an England football manager. Who’d be an actor?

Michael Simkins isn’t sure, even though he’s been one himself for over thirty years. Join him backstage as he examines that business called showbusiness, from am dram to Hollywood, and from Shakespeare to ads for flatulence pills.

In a career that started as a plump teenager in ballet tights at RADA, Michael has appeared in countless West End plays and musicals, presented safety training workshops for sewage workers, and when resting, worked as a crate smasher at a car factory. He’s done movies, soaps, ads, and voice-overs, and worked with everyone from Meryl Streep to Kelly Osbourne. As the ultimate jobbing actor he’s flirted with triumph and oblivion without ever quite managing either.

InThe Rules of Acting he shares his hard-won wisdom. Covering everything from learning your lines to tilting for Oscar success in Hollywood, surviving a flop, to why it’s advisable to read the whole script if you wish to avoid improper relations with a pig, it’s the ultimate survival guide for anyone contemplating a life in showbiz.

'Throw out An Actor Prepares! Michael Simkins' book tells actors all they need to know about the realities of the acting profession; the passion, the struggle, the noble idealism and the heartache.'
HELEN MIRREN

'It is thrilling that Micahel Simkins is having such success as a writer - anything to keep him off the stage'
IAN MCKELLEN

Tynan Letters

Kathleen Tynan

The Letters of Kenneth Tynan- drama critic, talent snob, intellectual dandy, inveterate campaigner - provide a record of a soul: written between the ages of 11 and 53, they not only chart the extraordinary parabola of his career but show the constancy of his quest for grace, style and effortless wit.

Nothing Like a Dame

Elaine C Smith

'How did I end up here?' A question Elaine C. Smith asked herself when sitting in the dressing-room of a top theatre in London's West End, about to go on stage with one of the UK's most successful plays.

In Nothing Like a Dame, Elaine reflects on a 50-year journey that took her to the peak of the entertainment world. She recounts her long struggle to make it in a male-dominated, working-class society when women were supposed to just shut up and stay thin, especially in the sexist world of theatre and television, where she was told, 'Look, women just aren't funny.'

Despite many highs and lows, she proceeded to forge a stellar career in show business, hosting her own TV series and becoming a household name thanks to her comic portrayal of Mary Nesbitt, the long-suffering wife in the award-winning BBC comedy Rab C. Nesbitt.

Nothing Like a Dame is a heart-warming memoir: candid, outspoken, hilarious and at times deeply sad.

Nothing Like a Dame

Elaine C Smith

'How did I end up here?' A question Elaine C. Smith asked herself when sitting in the dressing-room of a top theatre in London's West End, about to go on stage with one of the UK's most successful plays.

In Nothing Like a Dame, Elaine reflects on a 50-year journey that took her from being that lippy wee lassie brought up in a mining village in the heart of darkest Lanarkshire to a celebrated performer at the peak of the entertainment world.

She recounts her long struggle to make it in a male-dominated, working-class Scotland at a time when women were supposed to just shut up and stay thin, especially in the sexist world of theatre and television, where she was told, 'Look, women just aren't funny.'

Despite many highs and lows, she has proceeded to forge a stellar career in show business, hosting her own TV series and becoming the first woman to consistently headline pantomimes in Scotland. She is a household name thanks to her comic portrayal of 'Mary Doll' Nesbitt, the long-suffering wife in the award-winning BBC comedy Rab C. Nesbitt.

Nothing Like a Dame is a heart-warming memoir, candid, outspoken, hilarious and at times deeply sad - exactly what you would expect from that lippy, opinionated and wonderful Elaine C. Smith. This is her story.

A Strange Eventful History

Michael Holroyd

Henry Irving - a merchant's clerk who became the saviour of British theatre - and Ellen Terry, who made her first theatre appearance as soon as she could walk, were the king and queen of the Victorian stage. Creatively interdependent, they founded a power-house of arts at the Lyceum Theatre, with Bram Stoker as business manager, where they recast Shakespeare's plays on an epic scale and took the company on lucrative and exhilarating international tours.

In his masterly new biography, award-winning writer Michael Holroyd explores their public and private lives, showing how their artistic legacy and their brilliant but troubled children came to influence the modern world.

Otherwise Engaged

Donald Spoto

In 1956, at the age of 22, Alan Bates was cast in John Osborne's controversial play, Look Back in Anger. The play changed the course of British theatre - and of Alan's life.

With a sudden rush of fame, he became a member of a new circle of actors at the Royal Court: the English Stage Company. From then on, he also worked steadily in television and won international acclaim for his roles in a number of major films, from A Kind of Loving and Zorba the Greek to Women in Love.

But his personal life was not always as seemingly straightforward as his career - his relationships, including that with his wife, Victoria Ward, were often turbulent. Drawing on dozens of interviews with his family, lovers, colleagues and friends - and mining a rich store of primary research - Donald Spoto chronicles Alan's achievements as a performer against the backdrop of a complicated personal life.

The Theory of the Modern Stage

Eric Bentley

In The Theory of the Modern Stage, leading drama critic, Eric Bentley, brings together landmark writings by dramatists, directors and thinkers who have had a profound effect on the theatre since the mid nineteenth century, from Adolphe Appia to Émile Zola.

Here, Antonin Artaud sets out a manifesto for a Theatre of Cruelty, Bertolt Brecht discusses the tension between entertainment and instruction in experimental drama and Bernard Shaw defends himself as a realist, while W. B. Yeats describes the creation of a People’s Theatre. The ideas of theatre’s great makers are revealed by their best expositors, as Eric Bentley writes about Stanislavsky belief in the importance of emotional memory when creating a dramatic role and Arthur Symons considers Richard Wagner and the relationship between genius, art and nature.

The Empty Space

Peter Brook

Adapted from a series of four lectures, originally delivered as the first of the Granada Northern Lectures Peter Brook's The Empty Space is an exploration of four aspects of theatre, 'Deadly, Holy, Rough and Immediate', published in Penguin Modern Classics.

'I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage'

In The Empty Space, groundbreaking director Peter Brook draws on a life in love with the stage to explore the issues facing any theatrical performance. Here he describes important developments in theatre from the last century, as well as smaller scale events, from productions by Stanislavsky to the rise of Method Acting, from Brecht's revolutionary alienation technique to the free form Happenings of the 1960s, and from the different styles of such great Shakespearean actors as John Gielgud and Paul Scofield to a joyous impromptu performance in the burnt-out shell of the Hamburg Opera just after the war. Passionate, unconventional and fascinating, his book shows how theatre defies rules, builds and shatters illusions and creates lasting memories for its audiences.

Peter Stephen Paul Brook CH CBE (b. 1925) is a highly influential British theatrical producer and director. During the 1950s he worked on many productions in Britain, Europe, and the USA, and in 1962 returned to Stratford-upon-Avon to join the newly established Royal Shakespeare Company. Throughout the next the 1960's he directed many ground breaking productions for the RSC before in 1970 forming The International Centre for Theatre Research in Paris.

If you enjoyed The Empty Space, you might like John Berger's Ways of Seeing, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'A brilliant book ... should be read by the many besides the passionate few to whom it will be required reading'
Daily Telegraph

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