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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playing the Histories
In 1965 the BBC televised The Wars of the Roses, a previous epic cycle of Shakespeare's history plays at the RSC, and the English Shakespeare Company's cycle of the late 1980s was also recorded (using the same title). This time, disgracefully, no TV channel or film company saw fit to record this extraordinary event for broadcast and for posterity. So congratulations...
Published on 22 July 2009 by J. Wilding

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A blog compilation
This is a difficult book to review. Nick Asbury was one of the terrific cast involved in the RSC's epic Histories cycle. If you saw these productions, inevitably you will find this book more interesting - I did and loved the book. BUT while the introduction is an interesting insight into the decision to become involved and what it involved, the bulk of the book is a...
Published on 20 July 2009 by Ripple


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playing the Histories, 22 July 2009
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J. Wilding (Warwickshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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In 1965 the BBC televised The Wars of the Roses, a previous epic cycle of Shakespeare's history plays at the RSC, and the English Shakespeare Company's cycle of the late 1980s was also recorded (using the same title). This time, disgracefully, no TV channel or film company saw fit to record this extraordinary event for broadcast and for posterity. So congratulations should go to Oberon Books for publishing Nick Asbury's wonderfully vivid blog of his participation in the plays as at least one record of an event which Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph described as "so many extraordinary words, so much outstanding acting, such an epic vision from the greatest writer the world has ever known, and, four centuries on, from the company that dedicates itself to his work".

Nick Asbury is a born diarist and chronicles his experience passionately, wittily and at times very movingly, especially when relating events in his and other company members' personal lives to the themes Shakespeare explored himself. There is much humour too - among many unforgettable hilarious episodes, one of my favourites is when Lex Shrapnel, a terrifically fiery Hotspur who is supposed to hurl his gauntlet aggressively at Aumerle (Jimmy Tucker) in Richard II, in one performance let go too soon, resulting in the glove sailing in the wrong direction across the stage, reducing Nick to corpsing uncontrollably with the others just about holding on until they got off stage!

The book contains a long newly written introduction by Nick covering the events leading up to the point at which the blog starts, and also includes a number of responses to the blog which show the impact this theatrical experience had on many of the members of its audience. A nice selection of the production photos by Ellie Kurttz are in the book too, as well as some taken by two of Nick's fellow actors - the last photo is proof positive that the ghost of Richard II could play table tennis!

For anyone who, like me, saw and loved the Histories, buy the book and rejoice in the memories it will bring back. For anyone who didn't see them, buy it and get a vibrant flavour of what you missed and a memorable account of the trials, tribulations and ultimate triumph of living through and "playing" in the Histories.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A blog compilation, 20 July 2009
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Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
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This is a difficult book to review. Nick Asbury was one of the terrific cast involved in the RSC's epic Histories cycle. If you saw these productions, inevitably you will find this book more interesting - I did and loved the book. BUT while the introduction is an interesting insight into the decision to become involved and what it involved, the bulk of the book is a collection if Asbury's blog entries published on the RSC's web site. And thereby hangs the difficulty.

Firstly, the blog was only started half way through the cycle - so you don't even get a full picture of the task. Secondly, while it is fascinating to read the day to day problems and joys of a working actor working on such a monumental task, and while Asbury is a very good writer, the nature of a blog is very different from a book and I'm in two minds as to the extent to which this works - particularly as general interest for anyone interested in acting that perhaps did not see the plays. A book is a more permanent record and requires a different style to the blog style.

The book also contains some nice, albelit relatively small, production pictures as well.

Asbury has provided a good insight within this context - but I finished the book hoping that one day he decides to sit down and write of his experiences in a more conventional book style. The excellent introduction chapter proves that he is an excellent writer, but I think a collection of blog entries has limited appeal. This is not a criticism in any way of the author, but rather the nature of the project itself.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic book on acting and life, 16 July 2009
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P. Ralph (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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Like Anthony Sher's Year of the King, Simon Callow's Being an Actor and Michael Simkin's What's My Motivation? - this is an absolute gem of a book about the life of an actor, and life in general.

Nick Asbury was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company when they set out on the, frankly, ludicrous task of performing all eight of Shakespeare's history plays with the same company of actors. His blogs throughout the process form the spine of the book but it is so much more than simply a book about acting or about those show's in particular.

Nick writes with passion, honesty, humour and, above all, heart about the much maligned business of 'shouting in the evenings' and the resulting book is an absolute joy to read. Cutting through the luvvy nonsense and egos and guff, Nick recounts the amazing and unique experience the company went through with fabulous clarity and joy.

A book for anyone interested in acting, theatre, Shakespeare and life. Can't recommend it highly enough.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Histories shared, 15 Aug 2010
The Royal Shakespeare Company's 'Histories Ensemble' made a point of connecting with its audience. The plays were as much about the audience as they were about the actors who were performing on-stage and Nick Asbury's 'Exit Pursued by a Badger' immortalises this connection. Asbury's book, like the original blog on the RSC website from which the book stems, provides a wonderful insight into what in the foreword RSC Artistic Director Michael Boyd calls "the belly of The Histories". For those who saw the plays in Stratford or London this book provides a wonderfully tangible reminder of a project that after the final curtain call was resigned to exist merely in the memories of its audience. The book is full of stories of on and off-stage life as well as including a large number of high-quality colour photographs which will ensure that the memories of those who saw the plays will not fade.

However Asbury's open and engaging prose means that this book is not merely a nostalgic memento for those who experienced The Histories but welcomes those whose first encounter with The Histories, the RSC, or indeed Shakespeare himself is through picking up this book.

What is perhaps most memorable about 'Exit Pursued by a Badger' is Asbury's willingness to write not just an open and engaging memoir about his time with the Royal Shakespeare Company, but also to write of the trials and tribulations of life as an actor, the complexities of Shakespeare and, perhaps most notably of all, being attacked by badgers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 3 April 2010
Nick Asbury's account is vivid and a fun insight into the daily gruel faced by these trojan actors. One feels as though one is actually there sweating with them. It was an amazing and historical event brought beautifully to life by Mr. Asbury. A must-have for anyone who loves the theatre.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that speaks to us all, 23 Mar 2010
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I am not a writer, nor an actor, and I don't even read or go to the theatre very much, which is why this book was such a revelation. I came to read, "Exit, Pursued by a Badger", after meeting Nick. Interested to learn, and understand better the world of acting and the RSC, I had intended only to dip into the book and gain some insights...in the end I read almost the entire book in one sitting, completely engrossed.

Nick opened my eyes to the immense task, individual and collective, of theatrical performance at the highest level; and I was fascinated by the insights he offered into the life of an actor off, as well as on stage. This is more than a book about the RSC's phenomenal performance of Shakespeare's Histories, it is about relationships...with one another, with money, with our past... and the raw honesty, and often great humour, with which Nick writes means you don't have to be an actor, or even enjoy reading to recognise one's humanity. This is a book that speaks to us all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Actor's insight, 12 July 2012
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Mr. R. Errington (SW France) - See all my reviews
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This is an amazing insight into "behind the scenes" Shakespeare. It's the sort of book you can read all at once or in stages. Whichever, you don't forget what's happened! It's written as he (Nick) speaks (I used to teach him)which makes for easy and enjoyable reading - nothing stuffy and boring here at all. Everyone I know who has read it has thoroughly enjoyed it. Hope we get another soon!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastically nostalgic, 11 Nov 2009
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Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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I had the great honour of seeing the history cycle while it was on at Stratford and loved it. If I could have spared the money I would definitely have seen the entire sequence over four days. Sadly, it was not to be. Reading these blog entries took me back to just how utterly skilled, well crafted and entirely absorbing this dramatic epic was and how very lucky I was to have been privileged to see it.

I didn't read Asbury's blog when it was posted on the RSC site, so I don't feel cheated that there isn't much here beyond that except an introduction and epilogue which tie everything together. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend it as a record far better than a programme to anyone who was there or wished they had been there, or anyone interested in the sheer graft of staging eight consecutive plays of such length.

Amazing stuff.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Thin Soup, 12 Dec 2009
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Michael Boyd's RSC production of the Shakespeare history "octology" which ran for several hundred performances in Stratford and at the Roundhouse in Camden between February 2006 and June 2008 was a landmark of English theatre, a rich and intense experience for actors and audience alike. Nick Asbury has now published his blog from his time as a member (Pistol, Bushey, Somerset etc) of the 34-actor ensemble. For the 250,000 people, myself included, who saw the production and the 1,000 or so that made it happen, this volume (which includes a generous supply of colour photos) will serve as a useful souvenir. Otherwise, it has to be said, it is thin soup.

Asbury is a better actor than he is a writer. His prose is banal, repetitive and held together by clichés (there are several too many references to soiled underpants, for example). He gives us a sense of the extended student life of actors, the challenges of unending rehearsal, corpsing , drying, remembering which play one is actually performing at any moment, of keeping still in simulated death and safe in choreographed fights. However, there is none of the delicious gossip, wicked insight into the characters of one's fellows , witty social observations or flashes of self-knowledge that make for the best diaries. Comparisons to Callow or Sher are simply silly. This blog is to a great diary as a reality TV show is to the Histories themselves.

There is another great absence: the Bard himself. The History plays contain much of Shakespeare's greatest poetry, characterization and insight into the human condition. None of this comes through in Asbury's blog. His part as an actor is, per the old adage that he quotes in his blog, simply to "Get on stage, say the lines, don't bang into the furniture, get off the stage." Curiosity about the play itself just doesn't come into it.
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