Title: All About Theatre
Author: National Theatre
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Older Children’s/middle grade Non-fiction
Book format: Paperback
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Description: Described by Benedict Cumberbatch as “a brilliant introduction to theatre”, this fascinating book by the National Theatre shows how plays like War Horse and many others are made. The book is packed with interviews with famous directors and actors, like Lenny Henry, Meera Syal, Julie Walters and Ben Whishaw, and productions like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and One Man, Two Guvnors. Hear from experts at the world-famous National Theatre about every aspect of stagecraft, including prop-making, set building and lighting design, and discover, from first idea to final curtain, how plays are made.

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review: This is such a great introduction to all things theatre related that it’s just perfect for anyone interested in acting or the many other roles you can have within the theatre. The paperback book is around A4 in size, though a bit wider, and is filled with lots of thick glossy and very colourful pages. It has a text book feel to it given its weight but unlike so many text books I’ve had to read in the past for school and study, this is definitely very fun and far more interesting.

National Theatre All About Theatre book page image one
©The Strawberry Post

The book tells you everything you could possibly want to know about how theatre works, explained by the National Theatre who put on so many amazing shows every year. The book is broken up into chapters about the different aspects of the theatre such as the different roles that are in theatre (actor, director, etc.), acting, props, costumes to name a few. Each section or chapter goes into more details and you really learn so much and in such an exciting way.

What you learn about theatre is actually very interesting and there’s a lot of information even I didn’t know about, despite being interested in theatre and acting. It’s too much information to explain in this review but for example you learn about how the set is created: from deciding what kind of stage to use (I didn’t know there were so many types such as the traverse stage- where people sit either side of the performance area) to the initial sketches of the set design, storyboarding and even building a model of the set before the real thing is built. I didn’t know so much effort and work went into just one aspect of the theatre and this book talks about every aspect of theatre!

Along with the main information about theatre there are also fun little extra snippets of text which teach you things such how the terms ‘crew’ and ‘rigging’ came to be (more interesting than you may think) and there are lots of tricks of the trade revealed or try this at home bits where they tell you how you can recreate some of the tricks on your own performances at home. There are also lots of short messages from people who work in theatre, real directors, designers, producers, etc. which is very interesting to read as you find out some more about how theatre works. There’s even snippets from some very well known actors and it was fun to learn a bit more about what they think or some of the mishaps they have had while on stage.

What makes this book so fun and easy to read is the way it is presented. Every page is a burst of different colours and the text is broken down into short sections with lots of little bubbles of text or boxes of extra information added around the page rather than just large blocks of paragraphs. There are pictures on each page, a lot of them photographs of the various departments or productions at the National Theatre. I especially love seeing images of war horse or famous actors. There are also lots of pictures of other things such as sketches of set designs and costumes which are all fun and make this far more interesting to read. Each page also has a unique look to the others so it’s always fun to turn the page and see what else there is to read. It’s this broken down and very colourful page layout that has really made this a fun read for me and I’m not sure I would have absorbed all the information with as much interest or enthusiasm if it had all been more text based or less colourful or less illustrated.

National Theatre All About Theatre book page image two
©The Strawberry Post

I would really recommend this book to anyone interested in the theatre. Of course it is aimed at older kids and teens but I think anyone, even adults, will find this book interesting to read. It will certainly inspire some kids towards the theatre if they already had an interest and may even spark an interest in some who didn’t before. What I love most about this book though is that it shows you just how many different ways you can be involved in the theatre and with such interesting chapters and a great introduction to the National Theatre itself (including its history), plus all the pictures and photos, I really don’t know who wouldn’t like to read this book.

-Review first appeared online November 2017 – now republished here.

What do you think of this book?  Have you ever been interested in the theatre?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂