The Gazette’s theatre columnist, Paul T Davies, is going back to where it all started for him, appearing on the stage as an actor. A successful playwright as well as a director, he’s acting again in what he calls a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to appear as the Nurse in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. That’s with the Priory Players at the Headgate Theatre later this month from January 30 to February 2 at 7.45pm, with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. For tickets, call 01206 366000 or go to

What or who got you interested theatre? Did you take part in any productions at school?

It was my superb drama teacher, Miss Jones, and my English teacher, Mrs Bird, who saw some kind of potential in me. I was cast in Pride and Prejudice when I was about 16, and then a year later gave a pretty memorable performance as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. I can’t reach that high cackle now.

Are or were any members of your immediate family involved in the theatre?

None, where this comes from remains a mystery to this day. None of my immediate family take part in theatre even now, tough I have a god-daughter who is considered to be a bit of a drama queen.

Who is the most inspiring person you’ve worked with and why?

Women. Apologies to my gender, but all of my role models have been female. From the teachers I mention above, then especially with Everyman Theatre in Cardiff, (which I consider my drama school), where there were a group of incredible women who nurtured my talent and confidence, and here in Colchester, wonderful directors like Wendy Smith and actors like Sara Green.

What formal training have you done?

I have a BA in Humanities and MA in Drama from the University of Essex and a PhD from the University of East Anglia. I love researching and writing about theatre, but also did a huge amount of practical work and workshops on these courses that I still practice and teach.

Do you have any specialist skills – anything from stilt walking to dress-making – which you work into your repertoire?

Sometimes remembering the right lines, the right cues and not bumping into the set is a specialist skill for me.

Which experience/role do you regard as the highlight of your career to date?

With local company Father Hen, we did a four-person version of The Tempest. Director Stella Payne, (another incredible woman), cast me as Prospero, Caliban and Gonzalo. It’s the most lines I’ve ever had to learn and three substantial roles. It challenged me, terrified me, and I came out of it a better actor.

What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage?

Getting to the end of a performance of What The Butler Saw, (which I think was the last play I acted in at the Headgate), and forgetting my final line. Instead of saying: “Love must bring greater joy than violence”, I said: “because love is greater... than comfort and joy.” Then, because it was close to Christmas, I repeated “Comfort and Joy.” Those on stage with me still remind me of that.

What role would you most like to play and why?

I still haven’t played Malvolio in Twelfth Night. Time is running out!!

Ever corpsed on stage? What happened?

When I was student, I was in a particularly giggly production of the Wizard of Oz, (again), this time I was the Tin Man. I held it together until I unrolled the proclamation, and the crew had written on it “Who’s got a big chopper then?”

Any big plans for the future?

My company, Stage Write, has had a remarkable couple of years and my plays have performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, London and throughout the UK, particularly my play Living with Luke. I’m taking a break from producing to write new plays and screenplays, so, hopefully, there will be exciting productions coming soon. Of course, I’m playing the Nurse in a once in lifetime chance to act that role, and in the autumn I’m directing The Beauty Queen of Lenanne for Colchester Theatre Group. I’m also back in the reviewing seat throughout the year.

Any tricks for remembering your lines or other useful tips to pass on to other actors/directors?

There’s no easy way. Go over them every day and rehearse as much as you can with the actors, meet outside of the rehearsals if necessary. And learn them early, don’t leave it too late.