REVIEW: National Youth Theatre Monologues, Nick Hern Books ✭✭✭✭

Paul T Davies reviews National Youth Theatre Monologues compiled by Michael Bryher and published by Nick Hern Books.

National Youth Theatre MonologuesNational Youth Theatre Monologues.
Michael Bryher
Nick Hern Books.
4 Stars
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Expertly gathered by Bryher, this informative and enjoyable audition book brings together 75 speeches for auditions, aimed primarily at young people, but often transcending the age range of youth theatre. The introduction guides the reader into using the book to its best purposes, every speech comes with character and scene analysis, asking who the character is talking to, what they want, etc. There is a wide range of monologues to choose from, but advice is given on gender identity and fluidity, to read the whole play and not just the monologue, spontaneity, dealing with nerves and so on. In addition to the commentary guide for each speech, there are very good exercises including diary accounts, drawing the character if words begin to fail you, and creating a mood board.

All this is set out before the monologues themselves, and I would defy any actor to not come away with a strong handful of speeches to investigate and learn! Each monologue is written by a writer who has been involved with the National Youth Theatre, and its acclaimed authors include Peter Terson, whose Zigger Zagger was the first NYT play, and it still holds its power now, Barrie Keefe, Shelly Silas, Zawe Ashton, Carol Ann Duffy and James Graham.  Classics such as Lorca’s Blood Wedding, Oedipus the King, and  Murder in the Cathedral by T S Eliot, turn pages with contemporary adaptation pieces such as The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Pigeon English and Private Peaceful. I did get to a point, possibly because of the order of speeches, that I felt they were a little too urban and London centric, but the more I read the more I felt that the collection does begin to open up and the range does expand, with Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa and Barry Hine’s Kes being fine examples.

The book achieves what every collection of monologues should do, it introduces the reader to new work and playwrights that may be unfamiliar, firing up enthusiasm to read the whole play, and the reader is guided towards obtaining the full copy of the script. There are reflections and advice from NYT alumni such as Rachael Stirling and Jo Cassidy and audition tips from the likes of Matt Lucas and Helen Mirren. Above all, it is accessible, inspiring and entertaining, and is an essential addition to monologue collections already available.

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