Thespians is about the life of actors, especially actors of a certain age who worked in and remember the golden age of the British repertory system. Thespians recounts the stories of over forty actors, interwoven into entertaining themes. Many of the actors are household names, some of them relatively unknown. Famous or not, their stories are equally engrossing and provide a glimpse into the hard, exciting but rarely glamorous life of actors working in provincial theatre in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Most of the actors in the book have careers going back over fifty years, some even longer. Thespians is essentially, but not exclusively, about the good old days of rep, establishments that have now largely disappeared except in the memories of those who grew up in them. Fifteen or twenty years from now sadly few of those actors will be around to pass on their fascinating tales. As someone who worked in rep and knows and appeared with many of the actors who have contributed to this book, the author evokes, in an engaging and informative way, a record of all aspects of those vibrant times so they will, hopefully, not be forgotten.
Contributors include:- Robert Aldous, Steven Berkoff, Stephen Boswell, Tony Britton, Christopher Cazenove, Stephanie Cole, Tom Conti, Oliver Ford Davies, Malcolm Farquhar, William Gaunt, David Gilmore, Gawn Grainger, Leslie Grantham, Robin Herford, Julia Hills, Mark Hyde, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith, Rosemary Leach, Mark Lester, Peter Laird, Alec McCowen, Clive Mantle, Ian Mullins, Paul Nicholas, Audrey Noble, Kate O’Mara, Tom Owen, Robert Powell, Duncan Preston, Patrick Stewart, Josephine Tewson, Philip Voss, Zoe Wanamaker, Timothy West, Robert Whelan, Benjamin Whitrow and Mark Wynter.
“A wonderful book. A loving tribute to the profession.” Gawn Grainger
Thespians is about:-
- Actors’ earliest childhood memories of going to the theatre.
- Their first tentative steps onto a stage in either school or amateur productions.
- Youngsters going to drama school or starting their career as a lowly Student ASM, making tea and sweeping the stage in a humble provincial rep.
- Their first jobs
- The great names that inspired or influenced young actors in the 1950s and 60s.
- Life on the road and the relentless rigmarole of touring.
- Digs and the rare breed that was theatrical landladies.
- Actors’ early auditions, including those for the great Laurence Olivier.
- The theatres which housed rep companies, often so primitive that there was no hot water and, commonly, only one backstage lavatory.
- Working in Stratford and London in the early days of the RSC and the National Theatre
- The often eccentric and/or domineering characters who ran theatres.
- The actors’ first big break.
- Actors getting old and adjusting to new challenges and realities.
- The disasters and the triumphs that abound in any life spent on the stage.
- How the working life of an actor has changed since the heyday of rep.