Society for Theatre Research – Book Prize 2013

The Society for Theatre Research drew up this shortlist from books published in 2013 and the prize was awarded in May 2014. With titles from two specialist theatre-publishers, a main-line publisher with a drama list, an overseas academic publisher, and a small independent press, and from historical overviews to personal memoir, technique of performance and esoteric study, the short list conveniently demonstrated the range of books submitted for the prize. So what of the indexes?

The National Theatre Story  by Daniel Rosenthal (Oberon) was the winner of the prize. Amazon could not furnish a Look Inside so I can’t comment on this book, yet.

The Other National Theatre: 350 Years of Shows in Drury Lane by Robert Whelan (Jacob Tonson).

  • There is an index, there are lots of names of people, such as actors, playwrights and their financial backers.
  • There are very few ‘subjects’ other than these. I might have hoped for something about ‘musicals’, or ‘female authors’ or ‘comic opera’ or ‘pantomimes’, but they aren’t there.
  • As a reader you’d have to know who wrote which play as the plays are not entered separately, only by their author. However, there are some entries for modern musicals such as My Fair Lady, but no entry for Lerner and Loewe.
  • There are some long strings of locators against some of the names, which are then followed by some subheadings with only one or two locators. More effort could have been made to analyse the main heading locators and create more or better subheadings.
  • The earls and dukes of Bedford get their own main heading, with the various earls and dukes listed in the order in which they appear in the book. There is no cross-reference from ‘Russell’, so you’d have to know where to look for these chaps.
  • The layout is almost set-out but there is no indent when the lines turnover to indicate that this is the same heading, which makes reading the entries a little tricky.
  • There are few cross-references, and the entry for ‘women on the stage’ has only one locator, yet there several for Nell Gwynne and no cross-reference.
  • So it’s a big book, but the index doesn’t really help you see what it is about. At over 500 pages of text, an index of only 10 pages is too skimpy by far, as a rule of thumb, 5% should make a reasonable index length, so I’d hope for at least 25 pages for this one, maybe more. Perhaps they were constrained by the printer, but it was definitely detrimental to the book to have such a short index.

Speaking the Speech  by Giles Block (Nick Hern Books). Alas, no Look Inside.

Stage Blood  by Michael Blakemore (Faber & Faber). Kindle only today.

Wooden Os: Shakspeare’s Theatres and England’s Trees  by Vin Nardizzi (University of Toronto Press)

Without the Look Inside indexes on Amazon how are they ever going to sell these volumes?

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