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.
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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.

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Watch Fergus recording his Audiobook

You can get Tips for Actors from OberonBooks.com

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How I Ruined My Career as an Actor

Fergus Craig likes to tweet about his job. He likes to make his tweets funny. Essentially, Fergus spends his spare time mercilessly mocking his colleagues, bosses and self online.
In this blog, upon the release of his book, the hilarious Tips for Actors, Fergus ponders whether this pastime has really been the best thing for his acting career.

At an audition, about a year ago, a casting director cautiously poked her head out from behind a plant pot, looked at me and said “I’m scared of you”. It was then that I became certain in my own mind that I have utterly ruined my own career. How? About twice a day, usually when sat on the toilet, I mock the job I still officially say I do – actor.

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I started a twitter account called @tips4actors. It has over 40,000 followers. That’s not quite Katy Perry’s 93 million but it does include a vast number of the people whom I rely on to give me acting jobs. So when I write things like…

Never read the script. Would your character read the script? No, of course not. For them the script doesn’t exist.

… I fear they think “Yes, yes, very funny, but in all seriousness we’d like to hire someone we can be absolutely certain will read the script.” When I write…

If you feel the director is spending too much time on other actors’ scenes – fake an asthma attack.

… they say “He clearly thinks he’s funny but he doesn’t sound like a team player”.

You may think I’m being paranoid but I have concrete evidence that not everyone is getting the joke. Thanks to that tweet about not reading the script I found myself in a twitter argument with a theatre director who insisted that ‘Actually, it really is rather helpful for me as a director if the actor reads the script so I can discuss it with them’. Instead of explaining that it was a joke and sending him my CV, I proceeded to call him “EMBARRASSINGLY WRONG!”. I made myself chuckle but I think it’s safe to say my name was crossed off a list that day.

tfa2My favourite debate was over the following tweet…

Actors have an enormous capacity to feel. An actor’s heart is on average three times larger than that of a normal human. Fact.

In stepped the now deleted account of @TrentAllen72 to set me straight…

…fact? If their hearts were three times bigger they wouldn’t be alive. That’s a fact. #ridiculous

I replied with a simple ‘WRONG.” assuming Trent would cotton on. Trent didn’t. He came back at me…

…yours isn’t a fact, there’s no way round it…

He was right. It wasn’t a fact. There was no way round it. Unless of course it was a joke and he was the kind of person who believed there were people out there who thought Helen Mirren’s heart is the size of a basketball. I looked at his profile which mentioned he was a medical student. I thought I’d give him a chance to work out what was going on…

…you’re well off the mark. Ask a medical student mate…

Rather than ask himself “why would he suggest I ask a medical student rather than a doctor?” he confidently replied as if he had the ultimate retort right up his sleeve…

I am one mate.

I came back…

Then you obviously haven’t got to the ‘actors body’ module yet. Whole different kettle of fish.

The conversation ended there. I’ll never know if he figured out the joke or was, worryingly, called to operate on a patient.

Having some fun on twitter may have proved harmless to my career. For the first couple of years I was entirely anonymous. But then I thought it might be a good idea to write a book, a book that for 200 pages screams to the industry I so long to be respected by – I do not take my job very seriously.

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What was it that made that casting director, and I quote, “scared” of me? Perhaps she’s read the ‘Letter To A Casting Director” of my book. Here’s a brief extract…

Dear (insert name),

I’ve been watching you for some time. I like the way you move. I like the way you operate. I like the way you find a perfect balance between your work life and your family life. And may I say, what a wonderful family you appear to have. There’s just one thing missing in your life… me.

When Oberon Books commissioned me to write this book I was delighted. It didn’t occur to me that I was systematically destroying my hopes for a long and successful career as an actor in favour of a brief career as the author of a one off parody book. My first job after drama school was with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Do I really think they’ll ever have me back after reading my chapter on Shakespeare in which I recommend getting young audiences interested by adding swearwords into his verse? I’d love to do more West End theatre. What chance do I have considering my chapter on theatrical superstitions suggests that my own personal one is to snort a line of cocaine before every scene? I’ve done lots of comic acting on TV but would desperately love to be given the chance to appear in more dramatic roles. That ambition is surely well and truly scuppered now that my chapter on television acting suggests that I don’t really get into the swing of things until the 60th or 70th take.

And so, what was intended as a playful little side project may well become the last thing I do, before being forced to give up acting altogether and joining the rest of my family in the trawler fishing industry.

I hope you enjoy it.

You can learn more about Tips for Actors HERE.
You can follow @Tips4Actors on Twitter HERE.
You can watch more of Fergus’ comedy work online HERE.

See more of Fergus' work on Youtube

See more of Fergus’ work on Youtube

Photograph 51 Q&A with Anna Ziegler

Anna Ziegler’s award-winning play, Photograph 51, is currently running at the Noël Coward Theatre until 21st November. This extraordinary play looks at Rosalind Franklin, the woman who cracked the double-helix secret of DNA, and interrogates what is sacrificed in the pursuit of science, love and a place in history. Directed by Michael Grandage and starring Nicole Kidman, the production has attracted a huge amount of press attention. It has more than lived up to the hype, with wonderful reviews since its opening in September.

Below is a transcript of playwright Anna Ziegler in conversation with Heather Neil of TheatreVoice.com, in which Ziegler discusses her inspiration for Photograph 51, and her creative process. Down below you’ll also find a competition to win a signed copy of the play, as well as some of the great endorsements from all of you on social media. We love to read and share these, so keep them coming!

9781783199358TheatreVoice.com: What was it about her [Rosalind Franklin] that so fascinated you? Obviously she has been allowed to drop out of history unfairly. Was that the main thing, or was it what she discovered?
Anna Ziegler: What I immediately loved about her was just how unique and interesting and complicated a character she was. And inherently tragic. I think the fact that she died so young and had so much potential – she was really considered by almost everyone just a brilliant scientist – man or woman— it’s that potential cut short which is still heart-breaking…what she would have gone on to do and discover. But I also found the circumstances she was in, and the way those perhaps created or triggered the personality that then clashed so fiercely with Maurice Wilkins at this particular moment in history, fascinating.

TV: You have a quotation from Horace Judson in the programme, about how the importance of the personalities of scientists are often overlooked, and that’s the nub of the play really, isn’t it? It’s about how personality, as well as brains, are responsible for what actually happens and comes out of research.
AZ: For me, it is absolutely. And I think I was also really taken by the metaphor of the double-helix itself, and the way it reflects so much what happened at this moment. Because the double helix is itself a pairing. It’s a pairing that works very well and creates life, and here we have this story of these two pairs: one that worked together – Watson and Crick – and one that did not. And it’s of course the successful pair that ends up discovering life in a very neat, beautiful kind of way. And the failure of the other pairing is I think also sort of reflective of – and I don’t understand the science well enough to explain it but – the DNA as two strands that work together, but they never actually touch. So there is this essential part of life that is about tenuous collaboration and how easily things can go wrong.

Photograph 51, taken by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling

Photograph 51, taken by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling

TV: You don’t have a science background, and you’ve got to get over to an audience – also most of whom won’t have a science background – what all the fuss was about. You’ve used ideas of beauty and pattern and so on, which we do understand. But it’s always so difficult putting science on stage. Was that the biggest problem?
AZ: I suppose when I started writing it, I just thought ‘well I don’t understand a lot of these concepts, so whatever I put on stage has to be simple enough that I can understand it!’ So it seemed to me if I was the average audience member I would just do my best to represent something I could basically understand. That being said, I think the play goes by really quickly. It’s a fast-paced play and I think a lot of people – and I would too – miss some of the science. Maybe it’s sacrilegious to say it, but I don’t think it matters all that much. It’s not about the science. As long as the science is there and creating an authentic backdrop essentially, then I feel like I’ve done my job. But it’s certainly been daunting and gratifying to have the response of real scientists, and I think most have said the science is accurate and comes across pretty authentically so I’ve been happy about that, I have to admit.

TV: It’s set in London in 1951-53, so was that something you had to think hard about? Getting the language and the behaviour right?
AZ: I did write it in America. But it’s really fun for me to write very much outside of my own experience and my own voice. So it appealed to that side of me—and it appealed in particular to my Anglophilic side. I had done a year of graduate school here in England after University in the States – I was at UEA in Norwich. And then I had a British boyfriend for a number of years, so I spent a lot of time in England when I was in my twenties, shortly before writing this play. So I think I at least absorbed some British sensibility. And I didn’t worry so much about it being in the 50s. As the play has evolved there have been certain lines that I’ve shifted a little bit if someone would say ‘oh that feels a little too modern’, but on the whole it was really trying to capture a Britishness that felt natural and not imposed. I don’t really think people have changed all that much. I think there are certain words that people used more back then than now but I don’t think people are hugely different.

(You can listen to the entire conversation with Anna Ziegler at TheatreVoice.com)

513 519 518 517 516 515 512 514 If you’d like to win a signed copy of Photograph 51, email info@oberonbooks.com with your name & postal address, and we’ll add your name to the hat. Good luck!
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Photograph 51 will run at the Noël Coward Theatre until 21st November. 
The play text is available from Oberon Books.