June the First is the day on which you MUST do what you want. It started on that day itself in 1976. I was a trainee director and, at that point, seconded to the Phoenix Theatre, Leicester running drama workshops with my fellow trainee directors Alan Cohen and Sue Pomeroy – all under the guiding hands of Michael Bogdanov… I hated it. I was so miserable that I escaped any time I could.
On 29th May I fled to London to stay with my dear friend Leigh Malone, Head of Design at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch whom I’d met when I was seconded there earlier in the year. She lived then in a flat in Dalston (East London) that she shared with actor Pam Ferris. Pam has gone on to success in film: Matilda, Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Raven etc. and television: The Darling Buds of May, Rosemary and Thyme, Gavin and Stacey, Midwives and many, many others. At that time, she was with a brilliant theatre company called Shared Experience which, itself, has grown and changed – and is still brilliant. I have no doubt we went to see Shared Experience that weekend. I digress.
So, there we all were, having a wonderfully drunken time (Oddbins had a special offer on 1.5 litre bottles of Sicilian red wine) on a lovely, warm, end of May weekend. Then Monday came, and I had to go back. Leigh drove me to St Pancras in her red Triumph sports car, my heart sinking lower by the yard. We went into the main concourse and as I queued for my ticket, I said for the millionth time, “I don’t want to go to Leicester”. And Leigh said,
I’ll tell you what happened soon, very soon…