FACING THE FEAR: An Actor’s Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright
Nick Hern Books (NHB)
ISBN: 9 781848 423138
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 07 06 16
A special book, invaluable contribution to acting.
Bella Merlin’s comprehensive exploration of stage fright – ‘The Fear’ – is fascinating and incredibly informative. And while it indeed addresses its title, it goes well beyond it.
Merlin says that once she started working on the book, and that word around, she was contacted by many, many actors, well known and not so well known, all of whom said they had experienced The Fear. Among them Derek Jacobi (who first experienced it when approaching Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be . . . ‘, and Michael Gambon. The writer started exploring the phenomenon when she herself was in the grips of stage fright during the tour of THE PERMANENT WAY. It’s regularly noted that stage fright often occurs well into a run, not only during the early stages.
It will not surprise anyone who has read Merlin’s excellent STANISLAVSKY TOOLKIT that this book is well researched, excellently structured and helpfully user-friendly.
Merlin begins by defining what is meant by stage fright, how it manifests itself and how it affects the actor. Step by step she analyses the possible causes, including fascinating analyses of the actor-audience and the actor-director relationships. In a scientific way Merlin, having identified the problem, then sets out potential solutions. These are laid out as a set of practical, easy to follow and implement guidelines. Merlin’s pertinent analogies aid understanding and her sources are wide-ranging – medical, psychological, even military.
Merlin’s book is clearly timely, and it’s of great importance. But more . . . It’s a valuable book on acting best practice, looking at preparation, well-being, rehearsal and performance. There are many books, of course, on the market looking at these particular things, but none that comes at it from this revealing angle.
A special book that deserves a special place on anyone’s bookshelf concerned, directly or indirectly, with acting.