Book review: Notes From The Rehearsal Room

Nancy Meckler’s new book works both as a text for the budding or experienced theatre practitioner, and those more generally curious about the mechanics of creating the show you eventually see on stage.

Drawing on her wide career as a director in both large and small venues, Meckler is well-placed to discuss the mysteries of her craft – even now and then to acknowledge how she learned from decisions which didn’t work out.

This book is a fascinating read, in which the link between writer, director and the performer(s) is explored through a mix of memoir and workshop exercises.

The exercises range from the basic icebreakers many of us have encountered in business settings to more complex explorations to help actors find their way into a part.

With real-life examples and the realisation that even those with the smallest of parts need the inspiration of a director, Notes from the Rehearsal Room covers all the bases and more for creatives.

As a theatre critic, it gives me a deeper understanding of the finished product and the mechanics of building a show for an audience.

I remember watching Shakespeare Lives and Playing Shakespeare (a title I will be revisiting on DVD soon) to get a feel for behind the scenes at the RSC.

Meckler’s book is wider, dealing with shows from the likes of the old Soho Poly and Oval House to the big guns of the National and RSC. A good director is a creator, collaborator, counsellor, and conscience, and this is apparent on every page.

Addressing difficult actors and writers, nerves, rewrites, warm-ups, upstaging and more, this book is not just an essential read on this particular director’s career experiences, but also a primer on teamwork and how everyone works to make a show a success.

Notes from the Rehearsal Room by Nancy Meckler is published by Bloomsbury and is available now.