Amber Massie-Blomfield’s book explores the history of theatres from across the UK, affectionately written but also deeply researched.
“It is more than actor’s shrine: it is a symbol for everyone. It is a symbol of our need to communicate.” Sir Ian McKellen may have been talking about the campaign to save the Rose Playhouse from destruction and being built on – but this is also a pretty accurate way of thinking about theatre in general as this new book exploring the history of theatre proves.
Written like a love letter to theatre and its history, Amber Massie-Blomfield’s deeply researched book explores different theatres from across the country – some of which are familiar to the reader but a few also which are not – to give a detailed history of how theatre has developed over the centuries.
It is obvious that the author has gone through a lot for the creation of this book, a lot of dedication and research into each theatre is made clear in every chapter of the book – not least the initial decision of which theatre’s to feature, decided with her asking for recommendations of what the best theatres in the country are.
Yes there are a few London theatres mentioned (Camden People’s Theatre and the Rose Playhouse for example), but the author clearly wants to expand the reader’s mind away from the capital to discover some hidden theatrical gems from across the country and to encourage them to visit in order to help preserve their individual histories.
Throughout, the author is earnest and passionate in her aim that only occasionally comes across as self-indulgent in places. But ultimately it is honest and a celebration of what theatres have offered in different ways across the years.
The vividness of her descriptions of the theatres that she visits on her journey as well as the stories she picks up along the way mean that the reader is swept along on the journey as well, generating a genuine curiosity to visit places such as the Minack Theatre in Cornwall or the Roman Theatre of Verulamium for example.
At times the style and tone of the book can become a little bit clunky, making it slightly awkward to read in places. However, there is no denying that this is a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in the history of theatre as well as a celebration of how theatre has developed over centuries to where it is today.
By Emma Clarendon
Twenty Theatres to See Before You Die is available to buy from the 25th May.