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Something Written in the State of Denmark: An Actor's Year with the Royal Shakespeare Company [Paperback]

Keith Osborn
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 May 2010
Following in the footsteps of Nick Asbury's bestselling Exit Pursued by a Badger, actor and Royal Shakespeare Company alumnus Keith Osborn tells the story of the company's extraordinary 2008/9 season in Stratford and London, with much drama on and off stage. Keith appeared in Gregory Doran's acclaimed productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Love's Labours Lost and, of course, Doran's Hamlet with David Tennant in the title role. Keith's blog was followed loyally by thousands of readers, the book contains some new material covering the early parts of the season and a short account of the BBC's filming of Hamlet in the summer of 2009, rounded out with many rehearsal and production photos taken throughout the season.

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Something Written in the State of Denmark: An Actor's Year with the Royal Shakespeare Company + Exit Pursued by a Badger: An Actor's Journey Through History with Shakespeare + Covering McKellen: An Understudy's Tale
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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Oberon Books Ltd (1 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840029781
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840029789
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 540,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Keith was born in 1959 and brought up in Wembley, North West
London. He joined the National Youth Theatre in 1976, did one
year of a physics degree at Bristol University 1978 to 1979 before
going to Central School of Speech and Drama in 1980. He has
worked extensively as an actor since 1983 during which time he
also revisited his physics and mathematics career via The Open
University graduating in 2000. He's married and lives in Alcester near
Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire.

Product Description


If aimed at the student, it serves as an excellent elementary guide to the basics of stagecraft. If aimed at the Doctor Who fan, there is the sidelight on Tennant s actorly life. He recalls Tom Stoppard s Rosencrantz or Guildenstern, walking a fine line between being the quiet, unambitious courtier or being a real player in the world of Elsinor. --Joseph Chance, Time Literary Supplement

About the Author

Keith appeared in Greg Doran's acclaimed productions of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Love's Labours Lost" - and, of course, "Doran's Hamlet," with David Tennant in the title role. Keith's blog was followed loyally by thousands of readers, as well as many David Tennant fans.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To Blog or not to Blog 10 May 2010
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Following on from Nick Asbury's Exit, Pursued by a Badger: An Actor's Journey Through History with Shakespeare, Something Written in the State of Denmark is an extended compilation of blogs from one of the ensemble cast of Greg Doran's three productions of The Dream, Hamlet and Love's Labour's Lost. It's a fabulous insight into the day to day lives of these exceptionally hard working actors. And while I felt "Exit" suffered from only being commissioned half way through the Histories Cycle, the RSC appears to have perfected the concept of an "embedded blogger" and Keith Osborn takes up the story much earlier in the process - much to the benefit of the book format version.

Like Asbury, Osborn writes very entertainingly and not only do we get an insight into the processes that the actors go through in brining a production to life, but also the demands placed on understudies. There's also plenty of off the stage activity, either in the form of relaxing with his dog or putting together a supergroup of musical actors for charity gigs which seems to occupy his mind just as much as the plays themselves!

One reason that this is a particularly interesting read though is the involvement of the David Tennant Hamlet in the content - and particularly in the way the ensemble had to adapt when Tennant was unable to perform. It is remarkable that such as key character can be seamlessly replaced on stage. Also, there is the added benefit of the description going not just from rehearsal to production, but also in a post production life as the play was subsequently filmed for TV.

It's a fascinating and very human insight.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Theatrical Gem! 10 May 2010
This is a fascinating, witty, well-written and detailed diary of a Stratford season. It is not remotely "luvvy" or stuffy, but outlines the sheer hard-work of the teams, backstage as well as onstage, that goes into a successful RSC season. Of particular interest are the details of the understudy rehearsals which, in the case of this particular season, were tested to the full. The company comes across as very much an ensemble where everyone's contribution is valued. The author writes in a light, unaffected and very readable way, with great humour and insight. To any amateur, would-be or armchair thespian, or playgoer this book is a real treat.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A pleasing backstage pass. 13 Feb 2011
By Jason Mills VINE VOICE
The author performed in the RSC's 2008/9 season and kept a blog of his activities. This blog forms the text of the book, with some additional material about the early season and some end matter: production and rehearsal photographs, credits, plot summaries, blog responses (all from women, oddly) and tweets. (No index though.)

Osborn played Egeus in "A Midsummer Night's Dream", Marcellus in "Hamlet" and Marcade in "Love's Labour's Lost". He also had significant understudy work - notably as Claudius for Patrick Stewart - and a few side activities, including forming a band with members of the cast. He takes us through the entire season, from initial rehearsals in Clapham, on to the main productions in Stratford, and back to London for a winter run, closing with an epilogue about the later filming of "Hamlet" for the BBC.

Osborn's writing is engaging and unfussy (if a little slapdash here and there, as might be expected in a blog). The great value of this record is in revealing the depth and diversity of work that is applied to each production: puppetry workshops, maskwork, dialect coaching, fight calls, singing lessons, voice sessions, costume fittings, technical rehearsals, and on and on. Without seeing a moment of any of these stagings, the reader can be in no doubt as to the professionalism and creativity brought to bear. Sometimes the players are performing two plays in rep while rehearsing for their third!

The book is less revealing if one seeks celebrity titbits: what we learn of Patrick Stewart, David Tennant, or indeed any of the cast, is that they are all jolly nice people. I dare say, but a little good-humoured bitchiness and ribaldry could have drawn a more particular and lively picture for us. Look elsewhere for witty banter.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightfull facets 6 Jun 2010
The facets presented in this book show the life of an actor involved with one of the most exciting productions of the RSC's history. I liked the intricasies of real life detail which illustrated the complexities of working life for an actor e.g his butcher in Alcester, the description of a costume being like " a cat suit sort of thingy" and the amount of travelling involved to dovetail in work and family life - and taking the dog for a walk! The book highlighted the ephemeral nature of an acting life and the necessity to make relationships quickly so that the team will work well. The book brought back the intensity of the production and illustrated very well the fascinating detail involved in achieving a very skilled theatrical production.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unrevealing 26 May 2011
By H. Heckman - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is not nearly as interesting as I had hoped. Mr Osborn wrote his original blog under the auspices of the RSC, and in his book he clearly is determined not to step on any toes and risk damaging his chances of future work, and who can blame him. But as a result, aside from some interesting stuff on understudy rehearsals, Mr Osborn reveals very little of the inner dynamics of the company, the disputes, the jealousies that inhabit every theatre company-- in other words, the stuff readers want to read about. As it is, everyone is great and talented and friendly and understanding and blah, blah blah. Good PR for the RSC but bland for outsiders.
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Read 26 Dec 2013
By A H Morris - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic insight into the life of a working stage actor. Added bonus of the fact that Keith is part of a brace of Shakespeare plays produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He describes the process of putting on the play, from the first read through to the last performance. In the case of Hamlet, we go beyond the last stage performance and go behind the scenes of filming it.

Really enjoyable read.
5.0 out of 5 stars Single Spy 18 April 2013
By Colin McPhillamy - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What is delightful about this fly on the wall account of an actor's involvement of a full year long season across three plays in Stratford upon Avon and London, is the detail, the minutiae, and the insider's knowledge of day to day living as a company member. The rehearsal process, the text analysis, the staging, the singing, the combat, the design and so on... all this is described with relish, understanding, affection and approval. What emerges throughout the book as a whole is the under the skin experience of a man who loves his craft, and attempts at each turn to deepen it. We share the author's personal nourishment as he engages with three contrasting plays in the Shakespearean canon. A definite must read for anyone who wants to know what it's like to work for the RSC.
5.0 out of 5 stars I Wanna Work for the RSC 25 Sep 2010
By Marla Richmond - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a former stage manager in small theaters, I always wondered what it would be like to work in a place where money was not always an object. Where real artists could actually do what they want. I am intensely jealous of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Keith Osborn kept a blog of a year in the life. There is a tremendous amount of work involved and it sounds wonderful. Osborn goes beyond rehearsals and writes about what it is like to try to earn a living as an actor. What it is like to be a "star" and not be able to pick up lunch and eat it within 1/2 hour. This book gives a real view, though not all theaters have the luxuries of the RSC. Highly recommended!
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