LIFE often imitates art and that’s exactly what’s happening with Mercury Theatre Company actor Roger Delves Broughton.

While he plays an old sea captain in the current production of Under Milk Wood at the Colchester theatre, he is also captaining his own ship, which he has been lovingly restoring for the past seven years.

Roger has been sailing boats since he was a boy growing up in Wales “I saved my school dinner money to buy my first kit boat and that was the start of it,” he says.

His association with yachting has gone hand in hand with his acting career, often spending large periods at sea in between acting jobs. In 1976, a friend was then skipper of adventurer Francis Chichester’s boat, Gypsy Moth V, and, after entering the Tall Ships race, he asked Roger to join him.

Roger says: “I went with him from Plymouth to Tenerife and then on to New York. I remember it well because it was a long hot summer in the UK and I was away for all of it.

“We actually came back in on the weather system that broke the heat wave. When we got in everyone was talking about it and we were saying ‘what summer?’”

After that, Roger took a particularly nasty trip down to Cape Town.

“We got duffed up for three days in some pretty scary gales,” Roger adds.

“We did not have a clue where we were, so when we finally landed, I swore I would never sail again.

“Two weeks later my friend asked whether I fancied going to Java to skipper the boat back. I told him a resounding no.”

But it wasn’t long before Roger was back in a boat. He says: “I love it so much. The idea of battling the elements and the adventure.”

Roger has been a member of the Mercury Theatre Company since it began more than ten years ago and his most recent acquisition was as a result of the Colchester theatre’s pantomime. “It’s all linked together,” Roger explains. “It started with two gentlemen of the pantomime band, Andrew Stirling and James Keen.”

Andrew was getting rid of a two and a half tonne pocket yacht, called Matilda Mary, but when James took it on, he realised it was more of a job than he first thought.

Roger says: “His face fell when he read the survey. Then one day he rang to say he couldn’t cope with the boat any more and that he was thinking of giving her to the Scouts for their bonfire. Well, what could I do?”

Roger took her back to Keswick, where he was living at the time, then to Carlisle, before bringing her back down south to Morgan’s Marina, in Brightlingsea.

Roger began the long process of restoring her, occasionally getting help from the guys from the theatre’s backstage workshop and using off-cuts from various bits of scenery.

Roger adds: “The boat was built in Leigh in 1951 as a weekend cruising yacht and spent most of her days hired out for that purpose in Maldon and West Mersea. People have said how beautiful she is and they remember hiring her in the Sixties.

“I would love to hear from anyone else who remembers her, because I’m sure she’s got quite a story to tell.”

l Under Milk Wood is Dylan Thomas’ funny and touching tale which follows the lives of the extraordinary residents of Llareggub, an imaginary small Welsh fishing village.

It runs at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, until May 1.

Tickets are priced £8.50 to £19.50, and £7.50 for concessions, which are on sale now from the box office on 01206 573948 or online at