‘Theatrical’ book review: Maggie Harcourt's YA novel is perfect for romantics who love theatre

Interning at a stage theatre is going to be an eye-opening experience for a drama fanatic

John Millen |

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By Maggie Harcourt

Published by Usborne Publishing

ISBN 978-1474940689

Maggie Harcourt’s new book Theatrical is aimed at a definite group of readers. Do you read romance novels? Are you interested in the theatre? Then here is the perfect book for you. If neither topic appeals, you’ll find this hard-going.

This novel is very entrenched in its narrow subject matter, and for its intended readership, it is a perfect story, displaying all tropes and twists that the reader is entitled to expect.

Hope dreams of working in a theatre as a stage manager. Her mother is a film and theatre costume designer in a position to pull strings to get her daughter any job in the theatre she wants. But Hope wants to stand on her own two feet without her mother’s help or influence.

She is accepted as an intern at the Earl Theatre, which is about to stage one of the most eagerly anticipated theatre productions of the year, starring a heart-throb movie star. Hope is now in position to begin a journey she will never forget.

The plot of Theatrical is totally predictable and the characters behave exactly as the reader expects them to do. There are backstage rivalries, petulant stars, panicking producers, and a handsome understudy all thrown into the mix.

Who will Hope fall in love with, and how will the romance work out with everything else that is going on? And will this diverse mix of personalities pull together to get the show ready for the opening date? It isn’t a spoiler to say “Of course they will!”, or that Hope will gain confidence and become an important element in the success of the show. It’s just that kind of book.

Harcourt is clearly very familiar with theatre, and the plot takes the reader, and the main character, through the hard work and intricacy that go on behind the scenes of getting a commercial theatre production up and running.

Harcourt splits her narrative not into boring numbered chapters, but into sections given theatrical terms: “Audition”, “Act One, Scene One”, right through to “Curtain Call”.

It’s great to see a plot progress as clearly as this storyline does, and to read a novel with a definite beginning, middle, and end.

Much of what goes into a stage production is work that an audience never sees, and Harcourt celebrates this in her story. Theatrical is a celebration of all things theatre, but the romance does get in the way.

Again, this story is enjoyable, but only if you like the niche setting. If you’re interested in a theatrical setting for a novel, but not a fan of puppy love there are some great crime novels set in Theatre-land. Try Agatha Christie’s Murder in Three Acts or Ngaio Marsh’s Light Thickens instead.

John Millen can be contacted at [email protected]­il.com

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