I joined an amateur dramatic theatre company, LOST*, when I was 16 years old. I acted in several performances there as well as taking on technical and backstage roles. I also designed fliers and posters for productions. Initially, I came along to support a friend who wanted to have a go acting. The nature of these theatre groups was that even if you didn't get an acting role you could muck in any other way you could. And, the time everyone spent preparing for a production was equal to the time we spent socialising afterwards. So, in effect, my time at LOST proved significant, not only in initiating me to real-life theatre, but had a hugely profound impact on my teenage world.
|Poster for LOST's production of Philip King's See How They Run|
It seems theatre practice had always followed closely at my heals, even when my creative decisions diverted to other channels. During my A levels, I had decided to join a close school friend in taking an additional O Level in Drama, which I decided to see through to the end (bar taking the final written exam). At the London College of Printing (LCP), where I was studying my degree in Film, Television and Video, I was very heavily influenced by the films of John Cassavetes, and his improvised / devised approach to filmmaking, alongside other directors who incorporated their theatre backgrounds when making films.
During my early twenties I became a member of the Royal Court Young People's Theatre Writer's and Actor's group. It was a most satisfying time walking to the corner of Portobello Road and Cambridge Gardens, West London**, during an evening where I learned much about theatre games and theatre writing. My involvement with the group culminated in me becoming an Assistant Director for the play Sweethearts, written by Nick Grosso and starring Kate Beckinsdale, Joe Duttine and Diane Parish.
|EPTC's production of Ferenc Molnar's Lovers and Liars|
At the same time, through a fateful meeting with my 'partner in tights', Sanjit Sil, the two of us started Empty Pockets Theatre Company (EPTC). Initially created to gain more experience in our chosen fields (me directing and he acting), we went on to produce plays for the community by new and existing playwrights, such as Luigi Pirandello, Ferenc Molnar and Bertolt Brecht. EPTC ran for more than five years with the support of Tara Arts and Ealing Council.
|EPTC's production of Anton Chekhov's The Bear|
|EPTC's production of Luigi Pirandellos's The Imbecile|
Other notable theatre experiences also included working with my wife, Janet Daby, on All About U, a Christian children's and elderly ministry, and teaching drama for colleges and youth groups. With All About U, the ministry was comprised of several impassioned friends who scripted and performed 'learning shows' for local communities. A most impressive moment was us parading through the streets of Alperton, West London, with drums, flags and roller-blades, announcing that All About U had come to town.
|All About U|
*LOST, London Oratory School Theatre, was originally based near the school in a downstairs basement in Fulham Broadway, SW6. I was not connected to this secondary comprehensive school and neither were the members, who were mainly adult players.
**This was the Royal Court Young People's Theatre venue at the time.