The Oxford Book of Theatrical Anecdotes by Gyles Brandreth - review by Christopher Hart

Christopher Hart

Never Work with Children or Audiences

The Oxford Book of Theatrical Anecdotes


Oxford University Press 832pp £20 order from our bookshop

This book consists of some eight hundred pages of actors telling amusing stories about themselves, selected by Gyles Brandreth, the talkative and twinkly former Conservative MP for Chester, author of The Teddy Bear Joke Book and a longtime lover of all things thespian. But if this all sounds rather off-putting, remember that Brandreth is always reliably funny on Just a Minute. In any case, surely actors can, at least occasionally, be as entertaining as they think they are.

The inclusion of some of the recollections here is, admittedly, baffling. Norman Rodway, in a Restoration romp, once tripped during his stage entrance and tore a ligament, so the play had to be abandoned. And, er, that’s it. Or there was the time Sir Michael Redgrave lost contact with his earpiece, ‘leaving the great actor bereft and speechless’.

But then some of Redgrave’s generation were magnificent eccentrics and anarchists, in their gentlemanly way – especially Ralph Richardson. During a performance of Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw, Richardson suddenly stopped and asked if there was a doctor in the house. ‘A man in the circle identified himself. Sir

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