2011 Edition

SLIM CHANCES and Unscheduled Appearances

by Edward Petherbridge

With a Foreword by Ian McKellen


In this fascinating collection of essays, Petherbridge tells the story of his life in the theatre (low ebbs included), from his first acting lesson, watching Norman Evans in Humpty Dumpty at the Bradford Alhambra, and his early years in ‘tatty’ rep, through his frustrations and triumphs at the Old Vic under the leadership of Laurence Olivier, to his role in the formation of the democratic Actors’ Company and his membership of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Along the way he recounts several ‘unscheduled’ appearances, in Peter Brook’s Oedipus, for instance, and in Wormwood Scrubs as a young conscientious objector.

SlimChances2Part memoir and part master class, this unique anthology of prose and poetry, lavishly illustrated throughout by Petherbridge’s own artwork and many rare photographs, is a wonderfully entertaining, incisive and often moving exposition of the very heart of the mystery of acting.


‘Edward Petherbridge has produced a charming and insightful narrative, full of humour, theatrical lore and honesty. A must for anyone interested in 20th-century theatre.’ – A. L. Kennedy

‘By turns acutely observed, funny, self-deprecating, slightly scurrilous and occasionally waspish he shines a vivid light on the weird and wonderful world of acting and ‘Actaws’.  Along the way, we meet some of the true theatrical ‘greats’ – Laurence Olivier, Ian McKellen, Trevor Nunn to name but three – together with the supporting players, so essential but so frequently unsung.’ – Vulpes Libris

SlimChances3‘I’ve become addicted to reading several pages a day, partly because the anecdotes are so hilarious and treasurable … he is so intelligent and so interesting … The text is stuffed with long poems for special occasions, schoolboy reminiscences, analytical diversions and brilliant portraits of his fellow actors – there’s even a verbatim dialogue with McKellen – and the passages on the National under Olivier are priceless.’ – Michael Coveney

‘Reading Slim Chances is like getting the opportunity to sit down with Petherbridge and talk – it reads like a chat with an old friend, right down to the footnotes.’ – Washington Independent Review of Books

SlimChances4Slim Chances and Unscheduled Appearances, although largely based on personal reminiscence, can also be read as a collection of documentary essays. It is an actor’s attic of a book, packed with dusted-down complaints, belated tributes, a few apologies, ancient but still functioning theories, and, most interestingly, technical minutiae. Petherbridge knows about casting, lighting, rehearsals and musical accompaniment. Most of all he knows about timing. – Times Literary Supplement

‘One of the most touching descriptions I have ever read of a Northern English childhood is Edward Petherbridge’s account of his.’ – Theatre News Online