Tips for Actors – the Book Fairies are Back!

On Tuesday 8th November, our new pals from last month’s blog – the Books on the Underground fairies – were busy sharing copies of Tips for Actors by Fergus Craig on the London tube network! Were you lucky enough to find a copy? Let us know on Twitter.
9781786820297

In the most important theatrical book of this or any other decade, moderate twitter sensation @tips4actors (unrestrained by a 140-character limit) gives you all the advice you need to take your acting to the next level.

Topics include upstaging your fellow actors, what to wear on the first day of rehearsals (leather jacket and cowboy boots if you’re male and over 40), and pretending to be an animal.
Individual gems include:

  • ‘Learning to act is like learning to ride a bike. The likelihood of anyone ever paying you to do it is very low.’
  • ‘Never read the script. Would your character read the script? No, of course not. For them the script doesn’t exist.’
  • ‘Posh? Auditioning for a working class role? DON’T take your butler into the casting with you. Tell them to wait outside’

This is an essential tool for any actor. Why? Because nobody else is brave enough to tell the truth like Fergus Craig.

Fergus Craig is an actor who’s been a regular on a number of TV series on BBC and Channel 4, and has written for Channel 4’s Cardinal Burns (Best Sketch Show at the British Comedy Awards) and a number of BBC Radio shows including Colin and Fergus’s Digi Radio. Most recently, Fergus has starred alongside David Hasslehodd in the Emmy-nominated Hoff the Record.

video-audible

Watch Fergus recording his Audiobook

You can get Tips for Actors from OberonBooks.com

Advertisements

Bernard Kops at 90

Born in November 1926, the great post-war writer Bernard Kops will have his 90th Birthday later this year. Áine Ryan from Oberon Books went to meet him, to ask how it feels to reach this milestone.

The playwright, poet and novelist Bernard Kops will turn 90 this year. It’s the sort of milestone age, he jokes, that says ‘hello! I’m going to die soon! I’m still here!’ Going to meet Kops for tea and biscuits at this home near the Finchley Road, I also meet his wife Erica, two of his daughters, a son, a-son-in-law, a grandchild and three great-granddaughters. Sitting out in the communal garden which the area shares, there’s a real community feel, with the children having a water fight and interrupting our chat to get biscuits and kisses from their great-grandfather.

Kops

Bernard Kops

Bernard knows exactly what he wants to chat about. ‘I’ll tell you what’s going on with me.’ He says more than once. ‘I’m feeling a bit bereft because all the writers I came up with, they’ve all died, and I have no-one’. The recent passing of his friend and colleague Arnold Wesker has clearly affected him. But Kops still writes every day, so I ask if the people of London still inspire his characters and stories. ‘No’, he says, ‘it’s much more interior now. Parents, children, dying, living.’

‘I’m very anti-God at the moment’ he warns, before treating me to a reading of some new poems he’s been working on for an upcoming collection. The poem he wants to read is about his mother. A child’s view of a vast, warm, all-engulfing mother who gathers her family in her arms, mixed with images of the stress and worry of raising seven children with little money, and of the wider story of his family – genocide, holocaust, missing mothers, entire generations of missing mothers.

East London, 1950s

We speak a lot about Kops’ childhood and upbringing, and I’m fascinated by stories of London in the 40s and 50s. ‘There’s a place in the East End called Toynbee Hall, and on a sign it said ‘Drama Classes’, so I joined! The first play we did was a Sean O’Casey play, and I loved O’Casey, and he took me to other marvellous writers – Irish mainly – and poets, especially poets! And because I’m Jewish, there’s a kind of thing with the Irish… resonant… very similar.’ At one of these classes, the first play Kops ever wrote was about an IRA gunman hiding out, inspired in part by Sean O’Casey’s The Shadow of a Gunman. ‘Desperation, alienation, surviving against everything, and poverty were all in my head.’ Kops says, again aligning the Jewish experience with the Irish.

Local gardens

The local gardens

‘As a young boy I had no education because we were so poor, and the war bombed us out of our house. And then one day I walked into a library. If you’ve read the poem ‘Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East’ that will tell you the story of my life, really.’ ‘We lived in Shoreditch, and at that time it was stinking, you could push your finger into the walls of the house.’ Having no money to take his wife of 62 years, Erica, on a first date, he took her instead to the Italian Catholic church in Clerkenwell to Christmas Eve mass. The plan backfired when the strong incense which filled the chapel made Erica faint, causing a scene, much to the annoyance of the priest! Bernard still laughs at these stories, and talks about Erica at any opportunity. ‘She is beautiful and wonderful, but still down-to-earth and practical.’ ‘I live in a kind of little paradise’ he summarises. And, sitting in the sunshine discussing Yeats, Frost, and O’Casey with one of the most prolific and talented writers of our time, I have to agree.

Bernard Kops will turn 90 this November, with celebrations and events planned throughout Autumn ’16 at venues such as JW3 and The Jewish Museum.

Bernard and Erica, married 62 years

Bernard and Erica, married 62 years

Voices From The Armenian Genocide

Rebecca Maltby. Main image courtesy of Armenian National Institute Inc, courtesy of Sybil Stevens (daughter of Armin T. Wegner). Wegner Collection, Deutsches Literaturarchiv, Marbach, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Top image – Designed by Rebecca Maltby. Original image courtesy of Armenian National Institute Inc, courtesy of Sybil Stevens (daughter of Armin T. Wegner). Wegner Collection, Deutsches Literaturarchiv, Marbach, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. All other images – Scott Rylander.

Commemorating the centenary of the deportations that began the Armenian Genocide, I Wish To Die Singing – Voices From The Armenian Genocide is a controversial documentary drama uncovering the forgotten secrets and atrocities of a denied genocide – featuring eye-witness reportage, images, music, poetry from Armenia’s greatest poets, and verbatim survivors testimonies from one of the greatest historical injustices of all time.
In this piece, writer Neil McPherson reflects on his reasons for writing the play, his process, and the reactions he’s had.
(The below is taken and edited from Neil’s preface to the play text.) 

Armenian 2As far as I remember, the first time I ever heard about the Genocide was when I was eighteen and read Tim Cross’ The Lost Voices of World War One which included the work of three leading Armenian poets, all deported from Constantinople on April 24th 1915.

Seventeen years later, as Artistic Director at the Finborough Theatre in London, I was programming the theatre for the 2005 season. As usual, I researched the anniversaries that fell in that year as they can sometimes be a useful marketing hook for a production. When I learned that 2005 was the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, I decided to search for a play that we could produce to commemorate it. All of the plays I could find were by Armenian-Americans. Most were very short, and focused on the experience of the Armenian diaspora in the United States. They all assumed that their audiences already possessed a good working knowledge of the Genocide.

Armenian 5But I quickly learnt that the Armenian Genocide was very far from common knowledge. Most people I spoke to had never heard of it. A very few had, but only vaguely, and then solely in relation to the Holocaust, rather than as an event in its own right. It was then that I started to learn about Turkey’s ongoing denial of the Genocide. I soon found myself reading all the evidence I could find to see if there was any merit in what the Turkish government insist on calling ‘the other side of the story’, so that I could make up my mind for myself.

In the end, it wasn’t the horror of the Genocide itself which forced me to try and tell this story, but Turkey’s denial of it. I needed to scream about how these wounds, hurt, anguish and grief were all intensified because of a blank-faced refusal to tell the truth. And if I wasn’t able to find a play that would do that, then I vowed to try and create one myself.

Armenian 4I called an old school friend who, with his customary generosity, lent me some rare books to get me started, and despite some death threats (always a sign that you’re doing something right), the 2005 production completely sold out its few performances. I decided to wait until the centenary in 2015 before doing it again so that we could open the production on the exact anniversary of the start of the Genocide – 24th April.

Internationally, the denialist lobby were careful to keep their heads down in the run up to the centenary, and so we were able to present the 2015 production without any death threats. The reaction of the Armenian community was overwhelming, including parents bringing their children, and even people who travelled especially to the theatre from as far afield as Beirut and Yerevan to see it.

We did however receive some quite spectacular abuse on social media, which is where not being Armenian myself really came into its own. The first accusation would invariably be ‘What can we expect? You’re just a ‘LIARMENIAN’ and were shocked to learn that no, I wasn’t, not at all. Their second accusation would usually then be that I was obviously a 9781783193059sell-out and the whole production had been paid for by Armenian money. To which the answer was – with no pun intended – ‘I wish’. After that, they usually moved on to suggestions that were mainly scatological and probably anatomically impossible, but which worked very well when I quoted them verbatim in the play itself.

And if you still might be wondering the reason why a non-Armenian felt compelled to try and share this story, the last word should go to the poet Peter Balakian:
‘If the extermination of a million and half people and the erasure of a three-thousand-year-old civilization isn’t important enough to write about, what the fuck is?’

 

I Wish to Die Singing is available to buy from the Oberon Books website