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How I wanted so badly, being a fan of Simon Callow's acting, for this to be a real memoir, a tale of his life. Which it is, to an extent... interspersed every few minutes by reviews and articles he has written for various publications over the last couple of decades. This made me feel a little cheated. Even his grand style, good writing and lovely accent can't make it better.
The articles completely take away from the story, adding far too many superficial references to various (sometimes obscure) people and plays of whom Callow reviews... and tends to hack the story to "pieces," instead of contributing any real value.
This book would have been so much better and worth reading without these added articles, which made the story feel cheapened, having relied on already-written content, often well over 10 or 15 years old, to lengthen the book. I found myself skipping most of them, desperate to hear the short snippets of actual story between them.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
'My Life in Pieces' is not your typical autobiography. It's a compilation of "pieces" written by the actor Simon Callow for various newspapers, books, programs, memorials, etc. Most of them, of course, revolve around Callow's work in the theatre and on film. If his name isn't familiar to you, his face probably will be, from movies if not the stage: he played the Rev. Mr. Beebe in 'A Room with a View,' Schikaneder/Papageno in 'Amadeus,' and Gareth, the gay man who dies of a heart attack at one of the receptions in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral.' He's also well-known for his one-man show on Charles Dickens, which was televised in the UK and is available on DVD here in the US. Callow presents insightful essays on many of the great actors of the twentieth century, most of whom he has acted with, including Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Alec Guinness, Paul Scofield, Orson Welles, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Redgrave, Ian McKellan, and more. In addition, he writes about several directors and playwrights, classic 'schools' and 'methods' of acting, and his own views on the status of acting on today's stage.
Callow is a wonderful writer and a great storyteller. He can be funny, charming, reverent, and insightful--sometimes in the same piece. The stories he tells of working in the theatre are delightful, but they also give one an appreciation for the true art of acting. I listened to this book on audio, and with Callow himself as reader, it was a wonderful experience. I've always thought he was a fine, underrated character actor, and my admiration of his work has grown after reading/listening to these 'pieces.'
Recommended for anyone interested theatre arts.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
This is one of the best audio books I've listened to. I know that Simon Callow is a fine actor but didn’t realize he is also an accomplished writer and scholar of theatre and film. This book is based on the huge number of articles and reviews that he has written over the past 30 or so years. It's an entertaining and informative potpourri of autobiography, biography of actors past and present, mixed with reviews of plays and films and how they are made. The ups and downs of his life as an actor, director and writer are presented with endearing frankness and lack of self-importance despite his evident achievements.
This is one of those books that is enhanced by being read by someone as versatile as the author. He is a wonderful mimic and brings the voices of people as diverse as Frankie Howerd and Lawrence Olivier alive. The writing style is fluid and suits being heard. It’s a perfect blend of information about what it is like to be an actor, plenty about plays and films and how they are created plus backstage gossip, some of it wonderfully scurrilous. I’ve suspected that if there’s a gay gene it’s strongly linked to exceptional artistic talent and after hearing this book I’m even more convinced!
If you’ve any interest in theatre, film and what it’s like to be an actor I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book. I’m left feeling grateful that actors are willing to put up with an uncertain and rootless life that is often badly paid and where they are exposed to public criticism.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
Having been a fan and avid attendee of theatre for many years I bought this title on impulse, purely because it promised to be a very different take on the world of the actor and, somewhat selfishly, I thought it would help while away my current daily commute into The City. I was not disappointed; this book is an amazing find, grabbing the listener from the off and introducing them to an array of famous lives such as Olivier, Geilgud, Richardson, Edith Evans, Nigel Hawthorn, John Schofield, and looks at the effect they had on the world of theatre and how it impacted them.
The success of this title is in no small way down to Simon Callow whose infectious love of the theatre and the people in it is clear from the very start. Weaving his story broadly around his own life and career as an actor, Callow touches on aspects of the world of theatre that few audience-goers consider, and he gives a fascinating insight into the intrigues and alliances that are formed during a production. And yet he manages to maintain direct contact with you, the listener, talking as if you're sitting at a bar, passing the day.
My morning commute just isn't the same without Mr Callow and his tales, this is a must-have title.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful