John Aboott
Nick Hern Books
Info on the book at NHB:
ISBN: 978 1 85459 523 2
Cover Price: 10.99
Review: Rod Dungate 25.09.09

Clear, precise, tightly focused and a mine of good practice.
Improvisation in Rehearsal is an unusual book; it’s all in the title, really. This is a book about improvisation – but it’s focus is entirely on reaching the levels that lie below the written text of a script. John Abbott is clearly a highly experienced user of improvisation and equally clearly a careful thinker about the processes.

It’s a readable book and highly practical; chapters deal with research, general background, character development, shared memory development and so on. Abbott writes in a personal style, often backing up his ideas with his experiences of working with other actors – frequently acting students. This gives his writings a valuable ‘hands-on’ feel – as a practitioner you feel ‘I know how I can use this.’

He opens each chapter with a personal anecdote or reminiscence which relates obliquely to the topic of that chapter; I confess I frequently found these irritating. They have an unwelcome ‘pseudo guru’ tone which is entirely lacking from the rest of the book. But this is a small price to pay . . . and you can always just skip them.

On the positive side (and a big positive) is that the improvisations are always seen as a way of deepening the text work. Abbott goes to great lengths to explain the importance of research (and he has improvisations to assist with this) and work on understanding the detail of the text early on in the rehearsal process. He establishes that he has a pattern of working – research, text analysis, broad based improvisation and then rehearsing the script (also with improvisation). Intriguingly he requires actors to know their lines before he moves into the ‘rehearsing the script‘ phase; he even goes so far as to say if actors don’t know their lines for a particular scene he won’t rehearse it but goes on to a different one.

Primarily this is a book for experienced as well as burgeoning directors (and teacher-directors); even if you are already an impro user, there are so many ideas here, you’ll find something of use. And Abbott’s tight focus on his purpose creates an illuminating book. Other practitioners will find much of interest too.

Here’s a copy to the book on Amazon

2009-09-25 11:09:17

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