Book Review: Hamilton and Me: An Actor’s Journal – Giles Terera

Taking us so far behind the scenes you can smell the greasepaint, Giles Terera’s Hamilton and Me: An Actor’s Journal is a brilliant new book 

“My intention is…to try and show you the how”

I’m not saying I made Giles Terera’s career but I named him Best Actor in a Musical in 2015 for his spell-binding turn in Pure Imagination 🙂 Regardless of that though, there’s no doubting that dude was catapulted into the limelight by Hamilton, adding an Olivier to his fosterIAN award, and deservedly cementing his place in the British theatrical establishment. Throughout his time with the show, he kept a journal which has now been published as Hamilton and Me: An Actor’s Journal.

The relative informality of the journal structure works perfectly in cultivating an immediate sense of intimacy as we slip from audition process to rehearsal rooms to the Victoria Palace Theatre itself. But don’t mistake these for casual observations, the book is jam-packed full of hard-won insights and all kinds of practical advice which works whether you’re a budding thespian or just a bastard, orphan, son of a…

Things like the importance of building trust in key working relationships, and learning how to read people’s responses. Like appreciating the benefit of meticulous preparation but also knowing when to leave room for creative inspiration. Like not sweating the small stuff like the size of your dressing room and its antechambers. And for us everyday folk, if Helena Bonham Carter offers you special tea, just take it. 

The level of detail that the book affords into the rehearsal process is particularly fascinating, especially for a show as intricately staged and choreographed as Hamilton. We discover how getting from A to B in a straight line can be a challenge in itself, as well as the more obvious difficulties in figuring out how to walk backwards while singing. And the occasional linking of such anecdotes to more personal thoughts brings a subtly beautiful note of profundity that really elevates the whole.

A neat foreword from Lin-Manuel Miranda takes us briefly but illuminatingly through Terera’s revelatory audition for the role of Aaron Burr. And candid photographs are sprinkled throughout, taking us so far behind the scenes you can smell the greasepaint. It all makes for an inspirational and insightful read that I highly recommend.

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