Contemporary Rehearsal Practice : Anthony Neilson and the Devised Text book cover
1st Edition

Contemporary Rehearsal Practice
Anthony Neilson and the Devised Text

ISBN 9780367408527
Published February 23, 2021 by Routledge
210 Pages

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Book Description

This book provides the first comprehensive study of Anthony Neilson’s unconventional rehearsal methodology. Neilson’s notably collaborative rehearsal process affords an unusual amount of creative input to the actors he works with and has garnered much interest from scholars and practitioners alike.

This study analyses material edited from 100 hours of footage of the rehearsals of Neilson’s 2013 play Narrative at the Royal Court Theatre, as well as interviews with Neilson himself, the Narrative cast and actors from other Neilson productions. Replete with case studies, Gary Cassidy also considers the work of other relevant practitioners where appropriate, such as Katie Mitchell, Forced Entertainment, Joan Littlewood, Peter Brook, Complicite’s Simon McBurney, Stanislavski and Sarah Kane.

Contemporary Rehearsal Practice will be of great interest to scholars, students and practitioners of theatre and performance and those who have an interest in rehearsal studies.

Table of Contents




Anthony Neilson: An Overview

Introducing the Narrative Rehearsals


Book Structure

Part 1: Neilson’s Authorial Process

Part Introduction

Chapter 1: Neilson’s Authorial Process and the Actors’ Input

Case Study 1: Neilson as Author, Blackmail and Murder, and the Authorial Trope of Sound to Portray Psychological Liminality

Case Study 2: The Actor’s Indirect Input into Neilson’s Convoluted Jigsaw

Case Study 3: Olly Rix, Shakespeare and Superheroes: The Actor’s Direct Input


Chapter 2: ‘The Footmouse Dance’: The Actors’ Input into Authorial Tropes and Neilson’s Ad-Hoc Approach to Authorship

What’s in a Name?: The Naming of Characters as an Authorial Trope in Neilson’s Work

Zawe Ashton and the Cancelled Magazine Subscription: The Actor’s Direct Input Reconsidered

"Footmouse! Brilliant!": Humiliation as an Authorial Trope in Neilson’s Work

Chance and the Arbitrary: Neilson’s ‘Magpie’ Approach to Authorship


Part 2: Neilson’s Process and Improvisation

Part Introduction

Chapter 3: Improvisation and Characterisation

‘Box Therapy’: Uncertain Beginnings with Random Objects

Improvisation and Characterisation via Stanislavskian Principles


Mask Work

The Relationship Between Actor and Director: Unproductive Aspects

The Relationship Between Actor and Director: Productive Aspects


Chapter 4: The ‘Human Soundscape’: Improvisation, Rules and Failure

Uncertain Beginnings with an Absence of Rules

Humour, Rules and Challenging Leadership


Failure as Failure

Play and Catharsis: Therapy for the ‘Box Therapy’


Part 3: Directing Actors

Part Introduction

Chapter 5: Neilson the ‘Unsafe’ Director

Directing and Power: Neilson’s Egalitarian Approach

Directing and Power: Neilson’s Not Quite So Egalitarian Approach

Power and Communication

‘Ask the Audience’: The Suggestion of Audience Participation and its Rejection

‘Ask the Audience’: Not Neilson’s Way or the High Way

‘What Did You Expect’: Neilson Directs the Ending


Chapter 6: Neilson and the Actor’s Process

The Stanislavskian Actor’s Process

Actors’ Heterogeneity

Case Study 1: Neilson’s Motivational Speech

The Actor’s Process, Emotional Labour and the Reality of Working Conditions

Case Study 2: Press Night

The Importance of Timing for the Actor’s Process

Actors’ Coping Strategies


Book Conclusion








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Gary Cassidy is a Senior Lecturer in Acting at Bath Spa University. He trained as an actor at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and has many years of professional acting experience (Equity name Cas Harkins). His publication areas include contemporary British theatre and the analysis of screen acting.