Books & Literature

Book Review: Forever Horatio: An Actor’s Life, by Edmund Pegge

Edmund Pegge is one of those actors you’ve probably never heard of, but you’re sure to know his face from an active film and television career that spans decades.

Edmund Pegge may well be a name you never seen or heard as star in a movie or TV series but I confidently predict you will know his face. He has an extensive career in supporting roles in both Australia and UK. He was born in England in 1939 and moved to Adelaide in 1954, completing his education at St Peter’s College. He was an enthusiastic member of AUDS (Adelaide University Dramatic Society) and went to NADA (National Academy of Dramatic Art) in 1960, its second year of operation.

This is the first biography of an actor who isn’t ‘a star’ that I’ve read and I have to admit to being somewhat conflicted about this book. At times, it seems Pegge writes about incidents just to be able to name drop, for example lunching with Kirk Douglas, which wouldn’t seem out of place in a celebrity’s biography. Then he seems to be somewhat self-pitying, writing about how he didn’t get a part or was in the wrong place and missed a great opportunity.

Perhaps this reflects his own conflicts about his career path as the author wonders whether it would have been different, that is, more successful, if he had stayed in England and not moved back and forth between Australia and the UK. To be fair to Pegge, this is clearly the fate of a supporting actor who has less control over his destiny than do the big names of stage and screen who can afford to be more selective. He is happy to make jokes at his own expense when he writes ‘I am obviously awfully good at playing weak characters’ (page 158).

Although the author has a very readable style, I think the chapters on his early life are too long and not terribly interesting. Dividing the book in chronological sequence works in one sense – that is, his life’s beginning, middle and (not yet) end – are set out in order. On the other hand, it also leads to frequent repetition of similar events particularly when on tour – the location varies but the situations are familiar.

The book is an interesting insight into the world of the jobbing actor – one who has to take Shakespeare on tour in the Australian Outback, or act in commercials to make ends meet, and can step into a part at a moment’s notice when someone else pulls out or falls ill. Forever Horatio: An Actor’s Life describes such a life and whatever doubts Pegge occasionally has about his chosen path he has clearly had a fulfilling life on stage and screen.

Reviewed by Jan Kershaw

Rating out of 10:  7

Released by: Wakefield Press
Release Date: September 2017
RRP: $39.95

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