I’m not quite sure why it has taken so long to reach me but Actors’ Yearbook 2009 has just landed on my desk, courtesy of A&C Black. And as ever it’s a pretty eclectic and compelling read: ‘wonderfully comprehensive,’ as Christine Payne of Equity describes it in her foreword.
As you’d expect, I’m initially drawn to the training section which comes at the beginning of the 460 page Yearbook. And this would be a pretty good place for raw wannabes (perhaps a bit short on informed careers advice at school) to start. I hope, incidentally, that it’s in all school libraries for that reason?
The introduction to the section on drama schools explains the role of the Conference of Drama Schools, the National Council for Drama Training and how they intersect. It also gives some baseline advice about funding and then lists drama schools with their contact details and, in most cases, some information about courses.
There are also separate sections devoted to training for under-18s, university acting-orientated courses, short & part-time courses and private tutors & coaches.
New for this year is an essay by Saul Hyman, Executive Secretary at Conference of Drama Schools, who explains what his organisation is and how it works. So you get it from the horse’s mouth as it were.
The whole book is arguably about training, actually, because someone who is new to, or trying to get into, the industry could do a lot worse than study carefully the sections on agents and how they operate. And in the section called ‘theatre’ there’s a piece by Simon Dunmore (also the Year book’s editor) about effective audition speeches and another by Sinead MacManus about finding funding for projects, among may other useful articles.
And for me, at least, it’s always very helpful to have an up-to-date list of Children’s, young peoples and Theatre in Education companies handily in a book which can sit easily on my desk.
So, all in all, I think the Actors’ Yearbook is a Good Thing but I’d be interested to hear from people who have used, or benefited from it in the past. Peter Hall is quoted on the cover (publishers’ hype?) as declaring it ‘Indispensable to the young actor’ and Judi Dench, apparently, regards it as ‘a huge help to those undertaking their new journey.’ But Sir Peter and Dame Judi are both nearing the end of their respective distinguished journeys and I’m a journalist not an actor so we may not be the best judges. Please, therefore, let’s hear some views from drama students or young actors about the usefulness (or not?) of this annual publication.