Packed with insights from a lifetime of directing theatre, Words into Action is a fascinating read and a vital masterclass for actors and directors.
Renowned theatre director William Gaskill was one of the founders of the Royal Court, whose ethos, as Christopher Hampton says in his Foreword, ‘this book goes a long way towards defining’.
Gaskill’s acclaimed work as a director always began with the words of the playwright, and here, starting with a chapter on ‘Trusting the Writer’, he takes the actor through the vital steps needed to find the life of the play and then to articulate it on stage.
Drawing instances from his own work in the theatre and from teaching at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he looks at action and intention, stillness and movement, sentences and rhetoric, punctuation and pauses. He pays detailed attention to staging Shakespeare’s plays, and there are also chapters on masks, on language as character, and on verse and prose. Gaskill was, says Maggie Smith, ‘the best teacher in the world.’