At Freddie's, Paperback
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


From the Booker Prize-winner of 'Offshore' comes this entertaining tale of a chaotic stage school and its singular headmistress.

With a new introduction by Simon Callow. It is the 1960s, in London's West End, and Freddie is the formidable proprietress of the Temple Stage School.

Of unknown age and provenance, Freddie is a skirt-swathed enigma - a woman who by sheer force of character and single-minded thrust has turned herself and her school into a national institution.

Anyone who is anyone must know Freddie. At Freddie's is a wickedly droll comedy of the theatre and its terminally eccentric devotees.




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In post-war Britain, the theatrical school offering professional training for child actors targeting the few child roles in Shakespeare or, more often, a run in a pantomime, was practically an anachronism. Television and film did not need children who could act; they just needed cuteness. Nevertheless, Freddie’s (otherwise known as the Temple Stage School) persevered. Led by the irrepressible proprietress, Freddie, the school survived through guile, charity, and outright bluff. A small cohort of teachers and staff took charge of the diminutive student body whose egos and charm more than made up for their age and size. Wise beyond their years, as a steady diet of the bard and panto is bound to make one, the child actors suffer the vicissitudes of life with appropriate tragic or comic excess.The writing here is almost as light and ephemeral as the world in which the characters live. In essence, a series of comic set pieces punctuate the novel. In most, Freddie herself — ancient beyond years and surprisingly knowledgeable of the criminal underbelly of London’s east end as well as, oddly, obscure Italian dialects — takes centre stage. Seemingly on the edges of these stagey moments life continues to happen: love, death, small victories, and numerous defeats. It can seem inconsequential. So much so that the final moments of the novel may catch you entirely by surprise. As poignant and rich with existential anguish as Joyce’s ‘The Dead’. Breathtaking.Always highly recommended.

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