FIRST HOUSES by Peter Barkworth


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British actor Barkworth, virtually unknown in America, recalls his early years in the theater--starting as a teenage reciter of dialects and funny poems at fundraising concerts during WW II. Seeing Gielgud's Hamlet in 1944, however, made him want to be a ""serious and great actor"": he won a scholarship to RADA (supplemented by family sacrifice); provincial repertory followed--with one compelling little anecdote about breaking a contract in order to take a more attractive job. (The theater manager in Folkestone was furious; Barkworth carried the guilt for some time after.) And, after an agent saw him in Sheffield, Barkworth was off to London circa 1952--but with disappointing results: self-consciousness as an actor; the cliques and tantrums among the established stars; the dreariness of understudy rehearsals (while playing a walk-on in the Olivier/Leigh Sleeping Prince). So only after deciding to give up and turn to teaching did Barkworth ""fall in love again with the whole business of being an actor""--leading to his first big West End success, Roar Like a Dove. A few wryly engaging memories, a few wise tips for the would-be--but, at 127 pp. (and $18.95!), a very marginal addition to the actor-memoir shelf.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1984
Publisher: Secker & Warburg--dist. by David & Charles