It is easy, here in the hallowed halls of Total Theatre, to fall into the trap of thinking that there are no longer any divides in theatre-making practice, and that evolution of practice in the past three decades – in which physical and devised theatre and ‘new writing’ have moved ever closer – means that we are sharing so much of the same territory. Then there has been the inroads of, on the one hand, contemporary collaborative theatre-making and, on the other, multimedia cross-discipline live art, both beloved of so many of our university departments.
But then along comes a book like The Art of Acting to remind us that there’s a whole other world out there: a world in which statements like this are delivered with no hint of irony: ‘there are aspects to the job of directing a play that need not concern an actor … set and costume design, planning the lighting and sound, and the like’. And then: ‘the balance of opinion among actors seems to be that, while there are some excellent directors around, the majority are not much help’.
In its favour, the speedy and brief run through of ‘the history of acting styles and techniques’ references the likes of Copeau, Grotowski and Brook in passing), and could be useful to someone who wants to get a straightforward précis of theatre history. But most of the book is dedicated to a necessarily shallow ‘teach-yourself acting techniques’ approach, bolstered up with tips from famous actors and ‘actresses’ (as this book insists on labelling women actors). It also cautions against an over-reverential attitude toward Stanislavski, then references him endlessly throughout.
This book, I fear, will not be high on most Total Theatre Magazine readers’ wanted lists, and in its approach and attitude (born of David Carter’s 30 years in am dram, and reverential approcah to ‘the theatre’) is probably about as far away from Mike Bradwell’s ethos as you could possibly imagine!