Break a Leg
A joyful celebration of amateur theatre
This is the story of amateur dramatics in Britain. In a triumphant mix of memoir, social history, interviews and manifesto, Jenny Landreth opens our eyes to am-dram and shows us a vibrant world that is a crucial part of our culture.
Starting with the Mystery Plays of the Middle Ages, we move, via Shakespeare, to the Georgian aristocrats who built opulent private theatres in their own homes, then to the halcyon days of radical lefties taking political theatre to the streets, and on to the present day. Along the way, we visit several thriving theatres – across the country, and beyond our shores – and meet a cast of characters who tell us about the joy amateur theatre brings them. And we follow the full arc of a production at the Midlands theatre where Jenny’s parents met and she started out, from first auditions to last night party, with all the mishaps and forgotten lines that come in between.
In Britain today there are millions of people involved, and amateur theatre takes many forms, from classic productions to panto, but also cutting-edge new work. Without it, there would be no professional theatre, no Judi Dench or Kenneth Branagh or Brenda Blethyn. Break a Leg is an emphatic celebration. It is also a rallying cry, a call to appreciate how amateur theatre enriches communities and many people’s lives – and how, if you join in, it might just do the same for you.
‘[A] joyous celebration of amateur theatre; a triumphant mix of memoir, social history, interviews and manifesto… Break a Leg is an emphatic celebration and a rallying cry to appreciate how amateur theatre enriches communities and many people’s lives’ WhatsOnStage.com
Highly entertaining... [Landreth] has cleverly - and wittily - conflated memoir with the history of am-dram, its practical application and a close look at some of our most venerable companies." -- Nick Smurthwaite * Sardines Magazine * [An] honest account of the modest ambitions of most amateur theatre... entertaining... [and] her narrative feels completely authentic -- Martin Vander Weyer * Spectator * Landreth's charming book is both a cultural history of amateur theatre and a loving look at am-dram and its role in British life -- Sarah Hughes * i * I thoroughly enjoyed this beguiling ensemble of memoir, social history, interviews and manifesto, which tells the story of am-dram in Britain -- Caroline Sanderson * Bookseller * A hilarious, informative amdramoir - a love-letter to her father and a fascinating insight into the much maligned minority: the amateur -- Doon Mackichan A gorgeously funny, deeply affectionate and fully costumed swallow-dive into the great - and historic - amateur theatrical tradition. I loved it -- Alistair Petrie An honest, educational and downright hilarious memoir. It's a deeply affectionate look at a much-maligned bit of Britishness that we simply couldn't live without -- Angela Barnes This funny and interesting book makes you yearn for a long-lost sense of community, and then realise it's been there all along. Jenny Landreth, take an Am Dram style bow -- John O'Farrell An unputdownable, utterly delightful stroll through British amateur theatre and why it has a vital place for us all -- Shappi Khorsandi With spot-on injections of humour and a frequently raised sardonic eyebrow, joy and warmth shine from this fascinating and funny book -- Jo Brand Amateur is not a dirty word, but implies disinterested love, dedication and a clubbable, community feeling . . . Landreth reminds us, importantly, that the word amateur includes student and community theatre, vital seed corn and support to the professional world -- Libby Purvis * The Times *
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