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Are You Going to Do That Little Jump?

by on 8 July 2021

Flippancy to Deep Conviction

Are You Going to Do That Little Jump?

by Robert Gillespie

Nightwork  pp.267

Review by Patrick Adams

Robert Gillespie is a great raconteur, whose reminiscences of working with the greats in theatre, past and present, are retold with realism.  He has spent a life rubbing shoulders with the great, the good and the not so good, from Donald Wolfit, Cyril Cusack, Roy Kinnear or Julie Walters to eastern European spies.

Gillespie is an accomplished word-smith and creator of images that stick in the mind.  As such this, his second autobiographical book of working with theatre folk past and present, makes a good coffee table read, especially as it is written in short chapters enabling the reader to dip in and out at leisure.

His entertaining anecdotes of his time in repertory in the 1950’s and 1960’s raises many a smile and occasional eyebrow; coping with the word-learning process, paraphrasing when the playwrights words evade the memory, performing, rehearsing and word-learning, and all at the same time.  As he puts it, An eye-opener. … crude characterisation, obvious paraphrasing and a sense of forced energy floating on chronic fatigue, with never enough time to do your work or live properly”.  Strong stuff. He also talks of the great and “up and coming” actors of the period.

There is an affectionate section The Last of the Dinosaurs, the Actor-Managers such as Donald Wolfit, Robert Atkins and Agnew McMaster with a critique of their productions and attitudes.

The whole book shines with many photographs of that period and others.  He includes anecdotes on his wide ranging experiences from The Old Vic, RADA, Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop, Ipswich Repertory, the Glasgow Citizens Theatre, all interspersed with occasional visits to Hammersmith Labour Exchange.

His connections to the spy scandal of the 1960’s, The Petrov Affair  is intriguing, plus attitudes to religion, writing for That Was The Week That Was (known as TW3), and his Hungarian background

Quite a large proportion of the book is about his personal experience of working at the Kings Head Theatre in London, at the Actors Studio and of directing in Ireland.  And he includes some of his views on the quality of theatre buildings of the time. “Glasgow Citizens theatre … . It had a high, and intermittently deserved, reputation. The Theatre was a vast, almost clapped-out Victorian building sited in the Gorbals.”

We may share his joy in revealing the peccadilloes of the great actor-mangers of the past, relive his terrors of performing love scenes to an audience of children, or laugh at his tales from the green room.  However, Gillespie’s attitudes towards the theatre arts range from flippancy to deep conviction.  Here they spelt out by an objective insider.

If you fancy a sly peep those red velvet curtains, then this is the book for you.

Patrick Adams, July 2021

Photography by Paul Warrington

From → Books

One Comment
  1. celiabard permalink

    Shall look forward to purchasing and reading book.

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