cover image Playing Under the Piano: From Downton to Darkest Peru

Playing Under the Piano: From Downton to Darkest Peru

Hugh Bonneville. Other Press, $28.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-6354-2342-6

Acting memoirs don’t come much better than this humorous and self-effacing account by Bonneville, best known for his roles as the Earl of Grantham on Downton Abbey and Henry Brown in the Paddington movies. Bonneville makes the vicissitudes of his profession accessible while never taking himself too seriously, or his successes for granted. Born Hugh Williams in London in 1963, Bonneville had a pleasant childhood, forming close bonds with his parents; his father was a urologist, and his mother a government worker whose true employer, MI6, he only learned after her passing in 2015. He was attracted to acting at an early age, starting modestly: when he was about nine, he impersonated Davy Crockett to impress a girl he had a crush on. He became a member of the National Youth Theatre in 1980, joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1991, and went on to perform with masters of his craft, including Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh (who ended up giving him his first movie role, a small part in the 1994 film Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein). There are behind-the-scenes looks at Downton, as well as an entertaining account of Bonneville’s experiences with Courting Alex, an unsuccessful American sitcom. He also provides genuine insights into the actor’s craft as well as moving sections detailing his aging father’s diminishing mental capacities. This one’s a winner. (Nov.)