How To Act

August 13, 2017 | By | Reply More

★★★★★    Manipulative

Summerhall (Venue 26): Wed 2 – Sun 27 August 2017
Review by Linus West

Perfect pacing and authentic actors give Graham Eatough’s How To Act for the National Theatre of Scotland at Summerhall a unique shine.

The audience don’t even know it, but the script is wrapping them around its little finger, expertly exploiting their most basic assumptions of what is real and what is false.

Jade Ogugua with Robert Goodale. Pic Tim Morozzo

A major caveat beforehand. This production simply can’t be analysed without revealing some of its most fundamental secrets, lessening the impact it will have for someone yet watch it unfold. You have been warned.

Robert Goodale assumes the identity of Anthony Nicholl, a world-renowned theatre director, here to give a masterclass on the hidden key to acting. He has an instantly intriguing demeanour, moving about the stage barefoot with a mysterious posture. His speech is rambling yet composed, giving the sense of someone who really has amassed so much knowledge he can’t articulate it all.

He starts off speaking about ‘truth’, and how it is central to giving a genuine performance. You must believe what you are doing is real, 100% immerse yourself in the setting. This comes back to bite him, as his own denial of reality is exposed. Beautiful story arc, almost poetic.

Nicholl’s student for the class is Promise; a young girl, eager to hone her acting ability. Jade Ogugua delivers a positive, likeable character – leaving the audience completely unsuspecting of her true motives. Very well done.


Someone walking in completely blind could be seriously fooled that this is a genuine director, and genuine student. That’s the key to this performance – you assume these two people are peering into and analysing the world of acting, rather than partaking in it themselves. You let your guard down, leaving yourself unprepared for the twists to come.

Robert Goodale with Jade Ogugua. Pic Tim Morozzo

Promise’s origins are revealed; growing up in Nigeria before leaving the country to study in Britain. It doesn’t feel like exposition at all, but a natural part of the drama exercises she is being put through – drawing on her emotional past to improve her immersion. Graham Eatough really is being sly here, in his role as both writer and director.

Lighting, set and props are all minimalist. They haven’t become carried away with overcomplicating the production – using just the bare bones of what is needed to great effect.

There are some genuine lessons too, on how to become a better actor. Amidst the drama and clashing of characters, aspiring performers will walk out of this with some real guidance on how to come across as more believable onstage.

How To Act is one of those productions that tinkers with our most fundamental beliefs in theatre. It offers a compelling plot, thought-provoking lessons, and radical structure all at once. An easy choice for anyone seeking out the cutting edge of drama.

Running time 1 hour (no interval)
Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL (Venue 26)
Wednesday 2 – Sunday 27 August 2017
Daily (not 21): 1.10pm.
Tickets on the #EdFringe Website:

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