AK Bennett Hunter – September 2012

This volume by the doyen of West End company managers, Nick Bromley, is subtitled A Dictionary of Backstage Language, Expressions and Useful Stage Knowledge for Theatrically Bent or of a Curious Nature. It is not the first such dictionary but it is certainly the most personal.

True, some of his definitions are straightforwards and accurate but in most cases he adds his own often wry and witty gloss: “Flops are never flops, they are short runs.” Or my favourite, “Acne, see make-up.”

And the entries are by no means confined to the usual ones. You will have to read it to find out why ‘banana’, ‘clenched’, ‘meeting’ and ‘pencil’ are included. Some of his definitions might cause you to pause, does he really mean go for standby and flashing red for go? But then again the tone is such that he might just be pulling your leg. All good fun.

And the difference between this book and a more traditional take on theatrical glossaries is clear by a comparison of the definitions of ‘orchestra’. A recent design guide has ‘orchestra’ as “The dancing place for the chorus in the ancient Greek theatre consisting of a circular area where they chanted and danced, positioned between the audience and the raised stage used by the principals”.

Bromley’s version is “A posh band.”

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