It's the 1950s in England, and a young Australian actor, Sam, is about to start a six-month season with a high-class repertory theatre company in the north - the sort that has famous film stars in it. As he struggles with his tiny parts in "The Duchess of Malfi", "Macbeth" and "The Way Of The World", he is sucked into the enclosed world of the company, which mimics a Machiavellian court. Who's up and who's down shifts and changes regularly, and Sam's romantic entanglements with two women at once feed into the unstable mix. Towards the end of his engagement is when he finds out if he will be one of the favoured ones who is invited back "next season.
Michael Blakemore, an actor who changed over into being a director instead, wrote this in the 1960s when he was still a young man himself, and what is fascinating is that not only does he completely nail the inner life and psychology of a professional jobbing actor, but he also (I don't know if he was aware of this while writing it!!) completely nails the inner life and psychology of an actor who is "on the turn" of moving into directing. There is a lovely moment when Sam is staring at Tom, the director, in the rehearsal room and suddenly realising that Tom has no directing talent. I was left begging for a sequel; I really wanted to know what happened to Sam after the novel ended.
Lovely social history on what theatrical life was like at that time as well.