My parents were both actors so I was kind of born into this livelihood, though in so many respects, the professional world they occupied was quite different. I have been an actor for more than 40 years, more or less, since I left Oxford University where I studied English literature. After a short post-graduate training, I started out working in repertory companies, then worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company for a couple of years. I have worked in film, theatre and TV, and since the mid-eighties I have also been working as a director, and acting teacher, mainly in the various academies in London (Guildhall, RADA, Drama Centre etc). I have specialised in ‘text’ quite a lot, so have done quite a few productions of Shakespeare and other Jacobeans and classics — the main challenge with many students is getting them ‘out of their heads’. I also write, and took my own show to the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago, and currently have several writing projects on-going. I like travelling, speak several languages passably, and enjoy keeping up with the theatre that comes out of our neighboring European countries.
I was born in London, Hyde Park Corner actually, which used to have a hospital and has now become a hotel. London is where I live and mostly work, though I have worked in the USA: New York and West Coast, and in Toronto.
What fuels your desire to act/create?
Working with the imagination, and sharing that with other performers and then audiences—the physical as well as the emotional and mental aspects.
Tell us about your connection to Chekhov work.
I have been interested in Michael Chekhov’s approach to acting since the 1970s when I started acting professionally, trained, etc. I read some of his writings and explored some of his techniques, as much as I could on my own. Then, I worked with a director who was very influenced by Chekhov’s work, in what turned out to be a very successful production, but for me especially, the rehearsal process had given a lot of depth to the performance, and that was good because the job turned into quite a long haul, playing at the Old Vic in London, touring the UK and Canada. After that, whenever I was directing or teaching acting students, I would use some of his techniques to explore the work. But it was not until I got myself over from the UK to do the MICHA International Workshop that I really appreciated the massive potential of his work, as it has been taken forward by MICHA.
I’d studied their DVDs back in England a few times over the years, but there’s nothing like the live interaction of working with teachers that have really been immersed in it, who have in a very practice-based and intelligent way explored a whole potentiality suggested by Chekhov’s work—a lot of it, never set down in detail by the master himself. I like that it is an evolving process with MICHA.
How do you work with overcoming fear/doubt?
Either really to know what you’re doing (or think you do), or to find the dare of doing it more appealing than the fear of screwing it up.
What is your greatest obstacle in working with self?
That there’s nobody else around, and I get easily distracted and diverted into other things.
Also, as far as performing is concerned, you can only know yourself in relation to others.
How do you heal from rejection?
Slowly, and not always very effectively. And my skin is getting thinner with age.
What are you inspired by NOW?
There are many wonderful forms that performance can go on now, which is life-enhancing and exciting, and provides a seemingly limitless canvas of possibilities—but, there is also a danger in all this profusion that the core skills that actors used to learn as a matter of course may get diluted, and even lost. I’m thinking of vocal facility and dexterity, the ability to interpret and play in an inspired way with classical texts, being able to command with ease (and form and beauty) a large auditorium—without electronic equipment, which undermines the live power of theatre.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Stay as much as possible focused on doing the work you want to do, and wear blinkers when among the Entertainment Industry.
Who has had a powerful influence on your work?
Peter Brook, whose production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was the most wonderful theatre I have ever seen. Brook was dissed by another mentor of mine, as a “****ing director”—that was Peter O’Toole, whom I worked with for a time early in my career. He couldn’t work with Brook, and couldn’t abide the advance of what he saw as ‘director’s theatre’. What I admired deeply about O’Toole was the extraordinary daring and intelligence, which characterised most of his stage performances. Another director whose work I have studied and admired, though only through the agency of words, photos and a few feet of film is the great Russian Vsevolod Meyerhold. I shouldn’t forget Rudoph Laban, whose groundbreaking work in the mid-20th Century on the dynamics of movement, the body and choreography, have influenced several generations of dancers and performers, including me. —And a wonderful, fiercely intelligent director Annie Castledine, with whom I worked several times, who sadly died in the summer of 2016: ‘Walk without fear’ was her favorite adage, especially before first nights.
What is your next project or a recent project?
In the last couple of years, I have been involved in devising work with a couple of different companies, which have produced interesting and challenging performances. I am interested to work more in that way, as well as with my partner with whom I have been involved exploring the possibilities of costume and physical performance.
How do you reward yourself for a job well done?
Sometimes a bottle of champagne, sometimes a cigar, sometimes just enjoying a little time-out for peace and reflection.
What are your hopes and dreams?
To see live-entertainment and theatre survive and even thrive in this sea of electronic noise. Democracies need it, and tyrannies would rather do without it. I hope the world can become a fairer, more harmonious place for all.
What is your advice to self in pursuing the business side of work? Do you have advice for making/producing your own work?
Dogged persistence—you can see I don’t enjoy that aspect of the job. I think it is very difficult to make, perform in and produce your own work. I have done it, and to be honest, I didn’t find it very rewarding. I did alright, but the producing took too much of my energy away from the performing.
What advice do you have for auditioning?
If at all possible, don’t do an audition. Most of my best jobs have come without an audition. But if you can’t get out of it, make sure you’re as well prepared as possible, and do your best to look like you’re having a good time, maybe even actually HAVE a good time… and put the pieces back together as best you can, later.
In 2017, SUPER SPACE is serving as a vehicle to facilitate Created to Create Project.
CREATED TO CREATE
INTRODUCING ONE ARTIST PER WEEK, FOR 52 WEEKS IN 2017.
Beginning, January, 1st, 2017
ACTORS, ARTISTS, THEATRE MAKERS, FILM MAKERS, DESIGNERS, TEACHING ARTISTS, STUDENTS all chosen because they spend a part each day creating. Artists will be chosen in no particular order.
Introduce artists from different parts of the world. People who use different mediums and whose practice is at a different skill level. A thing they all have in common is unique sense of style and self-expression.