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Edinburgh Fringe 2017

How to Act

National Theatre of Scotland

Genre: Drama, New Writing, Theatre

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

“Internationally renowned theatre director Anthony Nicholl has travelled the globe on a life-long quest to discover the true essence of theatre. Today, he gives a masterclass, demonstrating first-hand the methods he cultivated in Africa and throughout the world. Promise, an aspiring actress, has been hand-picked to participate. “


Presented by National Theatre of Scotland, this is a new play for two actors written and directed by Graham Eatough, exploring several themes. At the core is theatre itself and theatricality, which effectively take us on a journey cleverly spliced between a balance of the present and the past. Anthony Nicholl (played by Robert Goodale) is an experienced actor teaching a master class. Promise (played by Jade Ogugua) is an actor, with some experience seeking to improve her acting skills. The situation is relatable and real as the play begins to unfold.

Goodale as Nicholl, the teacher is natural and dynamic. He has the presence and comfort onstage one might expect of a seasoned actor speaking in public about his craft using his sincere personality, gentle humour and wit to share his point of view. Sage advice and information emanate from him about theatre, it’s use, popularity – or lack of – through his ideas and experience. Promise is invited to do some acting exercises, to help her find truth in her performance. In fact it is both of these characters who search for truth not only in their craft but also in their own lives.

Nicholl recounts anecdotes as examples of his search for the truth, some of which expound on his travels that have taken him to several countries, including Nigeria. His enthusiasm for these stories is palpable and we are swept up in the vividness almost seeing the imagery he describes so well.

Trust is a theme that reappears throughout the dialogue and it seems to mean different things to each of the characters. Themes of exploitation, isolation and responsibility also glower in their turn as the story reveals itself truly over the arc of the play.

Nicholl challenges his student with patience and by provoking her in equal parts. He tries different tactics in order to bring out the best, most honest reactions from her. Promise is multi layered and complex, and seeks to please and tries to find the depths of her emotions to break free.

Both actors are excellent, multi dimensional, sensitive, reactive and emotive. They are physical and dynamic and play off of each other believably and create a large world in a small space. Nicholl is outstanding throughout and especially in the last part of the play as the story comes full circle. Ogugua’s poignant strength and credibility as Promise, start to finish is perfect.

This is fiery and impressive stuff, it transports as it twists and entertains. For a new play it is remarkably sound and will no doubt be sought out by companies to produce in the near future. This is a dramatic play with humour and hard-hitting fact. Engrossing, well acted, well written and well directed. Wow!