MY FIRST PLAY: An Anthology of Theatrical Beginnings
Nick Hern Books
RRP: 9.99 gbp
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 02 11 13
Nick Hern Books has a good record of bringing out a number of books that are slightly ‘off the wall’. This one is an excellent example. I confess to being a little put off by the cover (which presents the title as a series of children’s spelling bricks), but never could it be truer ‘Never judge a book by its cover.)
This collection, collated by Nick Hern, is to celebrate 25 years of this innovative and incredibly important publishing house. A host of theatre practitioners, each of which has been published by NHBs, was asked to write a short piece on, you’ve got it, My First Play.
The remit was open-ended – the first play you wrote, acted in, directed, remember seeing . . . That made you want to work in theatre. It would appear, from what we read, that each contributor understood the remit even wider. And sometimes, the contributor has broken off from what they’re working on to complete their contribution.
The result is a fascinating tiny glimpse into each contributor’s life – often in their formative years. The contributor appears, often, to have been caught off-guard, so that they chat to us; we feel, excitingly, that we are learning a new secret.
Gregory Doran talks of an early Midsummer Night’s Dream production with youth in the US and shows, right from the outset, a serious of intent and social conscience which goes on to mark his work since. Harriet Walter captures the puzzlement and magic she sensed in an early trip to Peter Pan – remembered in astounding detail. Then there’s Stephen Jeffreys relating his first terrifying foray into writing – it’s very funny and illustrates his front of self-confidence and gift of the gab (prerequisites for the playwright I suspect.) And then the moving, poetic, account from trans-gendered Jo Clifford: ‘I was a shy, youngish man [then]. And now I’m a grandma.’
A great read, whether you go straight through, or whether you dip in an out when you have the odd ten minutes.