Magazine article The Spectator

In Search of a Character

Magazine article The Spectator

In Search of a Character

Article excerpt

Lucky Break

by Esther Freud

Bloomsbury, £11.99, pp. 310,

ISBN 9781468805824

A chronicle of three young actors desperate to forge careers in the acting profession sounds like a dangerously familiar proposition. We are all now habituated to the weekly Saturday evening drama of wideeyed dreamers drilled, mauled, culled and reculled in search of a Nancy, Dorothy or Maria. In Lucky Break, however, Esther Freud redraws the path that leads from Television Centre direct to London's glittering West End.

These young hopefuls are plunged into the maelstrom of a three-year drama school programme that stretches and befuddles them in equal measure. There is a squirm inducing accuracy to the students' earnest endorsement of their training, hilariously realised in the principal and the quasi-mystical movement teacher. The austerity of their regime reads like satire, though sadly isn't.

But for all their diligence, passion and determination there is of course nothing they can do about the way they look. Thus beautiful Charlie and talented but preoccupied Dan graduate from the school with agents and start working almost immediately, while dumpy Nell has to find a different way in. As their paths begin to diverge with different jobs so they are forced to contrast the practical realities of their personal and professional lives with the principles instilled in them by their teachers.

Freud is terrific on the young actors' existential conundrum of trying to discover who one is at the very moment when one is trying get a job pretending to be anyone else. Charlie struggles with the deceptive glamour of her screen opportunities and Dan wrestles with the revolving door of fathering a surprise family and nurturing a fairly successful career.

As if to emphasise the unreliable stopstart momentum of their careers, chapters are interspersed between the three central characters. This structure enables Freud to stress the significance of anticipation and anticlimax in the dynamic of actors' lives without having to dramatise a whole series of auditions and performances. As Charlie's cynical boyfriend Rob insists at one point, the getting of the part is often far more of a highlight than the actual doing of it. …

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