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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 May 2010
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. If you have seen any of the productions, doubtless the tales mean more - and there a few production photos (though not quite as many as in the Asbury book - with more emphasis on the rehearsal images). Anyone who thinks an actor's life is an easy one need only read this book to have that image shattered.
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on 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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VINE VOICEon 13 February 2011
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.

The sadness of the end of a run comes across naturally, along with the ephemeral nature of a company of actors, dispersing to the four winds, perhaps never to meet again. On the whole it's a great insight into the intense work of a top theatre company, shot through with the excitement of live performance.
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on 1 October 2014
A fascinating account of an actors life and what goes on behind the scenes of an RSC production! The details of the "ensemble" practice are especially interesting - as I'm certain this, combined with the "Made in Stratford" approach is what makes the RSC different and outstanding. Keith Osborn is also very down to earth and absolutely "tells it like it is" in a naturalistic way that's easy to read and identify with for non-actors. As someone hooked on the RSC and their way of producing a play it's a great read, highly recommended and I wish the RSC would produce a few more like it!
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on 6 June 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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on 10 March 2015
An excellent read for all shakespeare fans
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