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A pleasing backstage pass.
on 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.