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on 27 December 2014
Pretty superficial. No insight of any kind into the plays themselves and only very minimal discussion of the productions, rehearsal process etc. Essentially gives view into the daily life of an elderly actor. The author has no gift for bringing individuals or events alive on the page and I found it difficult to warm to him as a person. I persevered with this in the hope it would get better but it didn't.
Not recommended.
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on 5 July 2013
If you like theatre books, you'll find this diary intriguing, irritating, enlightening and full of gossip and waffle. At first David Weston's account of the RSC 'King Lear' tour feels self indulgent and prolix; the meat is hard to find amongst so much trifling gravy. But if you persevere, you get a direct sense of the highs and lows of playing an attendant lord in a major production.

Simply being paid to swell a scene for others to star in is not all beer and skittles, even with the RSC, and, particularly when you are an understudy longing to play the big parts. Much of the commentary is acid to a degree, as the triumphs and disasters of Trevor Nunn's famous production unroll and unravel. Like Polonius, Weston is in many ways (and by his own admission) a 'tedious old fool'; but his insights, particularly on the behaviour of his fellow thespians, are not to be dismissed lightly as week after week of the world tour passes by.

The real star of the piece is Ian McKellen, not only as Lear onstage delivering a relentlessly powerful performance night after night - and even when sick - but displaying a great humanity and warmth, which some of his contemporaries clearly lack.

There is just about enough drama offstage to keep the reader interested; so that you don't just smell the grease paint, you can smell some of the bile as well.
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on 18 December 2011
Anyone interested in theatre, acting, Ian McKellen, King Lear, the trials and tribulations of being a jobing actor - this is a must read. David Weston's simple and effective prose takes us behind the genius of Trevor Nunn and Ian McKellen as they embark on a world tour of Shakespeare's greatest human tragedy, King Lear. Weston can be cutting, laugh out loud funny, self depreciating but always entertaining - his years in the rough and tough business of acting shows through in his well chosen accounts. Understudying a star can be a lonely business, ignored by critics, autograph hunters and even members of the audience but David Weston has pride, courage and enough theatre to make this read a noble experience. I couldn't put it down and I live in this world.
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on 2 January 2014
Everybody who is interested in nowadays theatre production and its "industrial" conditions, will read Weston's "diary" in few days or as we German (pardon my poor English) say "in einem Rutsch"". You won't know to smile, to cry or to shout out loud at certain moments of your lecture. Of course David Weston is somehow old fashioned, but if you are fair, you'll hardly find something really better, than his/such a point of view. (Over here in Germany we can see for quite some years, where bad artistic taste and misbehaviour will end: in a very poor state of the "art".)
Chapeau to Ian McKellen and the RSC whob (obviously) did not (?) try to sabotage this book. It should be read by every theatrelover.
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on 22 September 2011
I occasionally dip into books mainly biographies of actors as I worked in the business side and two of the leading actors in this company had been clients, this tour being set up after I had left the profession. It brought home how insecure a life the acting profession is at any level, apart from finding and being in work, the level of work offered. David Weston attained a Silver Medal in his initial training and you might have thought would have been destined for higher attainment throughout his life but
no that was not meant to be and this diary is written with warmth, a love for his profession, with the occasional perfectly acceptable barbed remark from an established and respected actor on his fellow thespian - could it be any other way? On a couple of occasions almost thinking he might take over from McKellen due to illness, but it never happened. Including the usual one about agents - which is the end of the profession I have experience in at the 'big name' level - which made me chuckle. That one will never go away. A delightful read which I would recommend and I hope Mr Weston continues to find fulfilling employment.
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on 6 January 2014
This is a marvellously engrossing read, primarily because David's story is so truthful. I have been an itinerant opera singer for over thirty years and I can vouch for a great deal of what he says about what touring can do to otherwise 'normal' and well-balanced grown-ups!!

It is heartening to learn that in addition to being a consummate professional, the great Sir Ian emerges as both normal and well-balanced. David is a wry and witty observer of other people's foibles and has learned a great deal about humanity in the course of his long career. He admits that as one gets older the need to impress others diminishes. Nevertheless, he remains a conscientious performer who still enjoys being an actor and being with actors.
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on 1 September 2011
An amazing behind the scenes at what it is like to be part of a major international theatre tour. I bought it for the gossip but was pleasantly surprised just how readable it is - Weston's style and humour carry you along at a great pace and the diary seems at times to ebb and flow like a good novel. Despite the occasional swipe at other cast members, it seems to be a balanced account, with the author regularly sending himself up. Perhaps a little sycophantic towards Sir Ian and Sir Trevor, but I guess Mr Weston is a member of the old guard...
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on 9 February 2014
This was a really enjoyable read. It gives a real insight into the frustrations of being an understudy to a star actor who is never off. The book is written as a diary and while there are some repetitions and misspellings of names, I found it hard to put down. I must say I would like to travel abroad with Mr Weston and his wife; while he may never have got to perform his version of Lear to a rapt audience, he certainly knows the best places to eat and his wife is adept at getting better hotel rooms! He was very good at indicating the somewhat chilly relationships within members of the company without actually criticising anyone too overtly .Being involved in the RSC at such a high level is no picnic. They work incredibly hard.
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on 6 June 2014
It's always fascinating to get an inside view of other people's professions, and this book gives the layperson a wonderful look at an actor's life and trade. The book is well written and well-paced, and Weston doesn't hold back on the irritations and frustations as well as the satisfactions of a year spent understudying Sir Ian McKellen. Some of the very young actors seem to have an over-developed sense of entitlement, but that applies to most professions these days. Sir Ian stands out as a wonderful man as well as a superb actor, and I'm sorry I missed this production of King Lear when it came to Australia. Reading this book was the next best thing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it.
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on 28 September 2014
Having finished this wonderful adventure, I sat back and congratulated myself on a successful world tour. Jobs do not come more prestigious than that. Unfortunately I then had to remind myself that I had not been a part of th RSC's tour at all. This is what David Weston does. He draws you in and takes you into his confidence - sharing the many ups and downs of a year long job at such a very high level of the acting food chain. My advice to anyone starting this book is to give yourself time because once you start, you won't be able to stop. Superb.
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