Theatre in Wales

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Summer Theatre Book 1- Wise Advice from the Frontline

Actor Theatre Book

Andy Nyman , Nick Hern Books , September 7, 2012
Actor Theatre Book by Andy Nyman Andy Nyman is twenty-five years out of Guildhall. He has driven vans and lorries, entertained at children’s parties, worked in retail and done magic. And he has acted. His lean honed guide has the authenticity of being written from the frontline. For any actor numbed by the technical rehearsal there is no need to feel guilty. They “are always” says Nyman “slow, soul-destroying and miserable.” Hard partying, alcohol and other substances will erode the capacity to learn lines after age fifty. If you are working, savour every moment of the job. You will never know how far away is the next one.

His gaze at the profession is enraptured but hard-headed. Sixty-nine percent polled for an Equity survey in 2010 earned less than three thousand pounds. The drop-out rate is scary but sticking power pays off. The role of Tracy Turnblad in Aberystwyth this summer attracted four hundred applicants. The roles for fifty-year olds play to a far smaller field. Nyman cites Morgan Freeman as a late flourisher.

He gives some succinct tips on acting as a business. “Despite what many actors say, your agent doesn’t work for you; you are a team”. He gives the subject of auditions fourteen paragraphs and they hit it right on. He is un-snobbish about advertising work. It is nice that it pays by word count ten thousand times that of a Shakespeare speech. But they also “teach you to work fast and be technical without being precious.”

There are many guides to the art of acting and he is sparing with his comments. If a line is losing a laugh, the trick is not to try harder. It is to do less and go back to the truth behind the moment. The page entitled “Your job in rehearsals” comprises one sentence. It is a very good one.

“The Golden Rules of Acting” is wryly humourous. Good reviews can be as damaging as the bad. He wishes he could resist reading them but he can’t. He repeats an old joke that is dismissive of reviews in “the Stage”. The incontinent sprawl of internet comment he calls “the Coward’s Playground.”

Parts of his book would be practical for any walk of life. Make a record of the people you meet. Mix outside acting. His list of Survival Tips is headed by “be nice to work with.” From personal experience a consultancy I once worked with used actors for primary research. One actor exhibited not just enthusiasm for the work but genuine curiosity as to what the business was all about. The next time I saw him was on the big screen. It was Sigourney Weaver’s film but he had the number two character part. Maybe the two were related. Nyman himself is scornful of the view that anyone ever had it easy.

Books on the life of acting are not so many. Michael Simpkins “What’s My Motivation?” is read by many with affection for its description of a life of reward, grit and occasional happenstance. “The Golden Rules of Acting” is smaller, shorter, pithier. It has pictures and big print- page seventeen has only twenty-four words but they are indeed “acting in a nutshell”. It is priced at the level of a London latte and muffin. If you know an actor low in spirits, or indeed any actor at all, do them a favour and slip them a copy.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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