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The end is in the beginning and yet we go on…


On the floor in the drama section

of my local library

lay a book

Stooping to pick it up it

I read the title


returning it to the shelf

I noticed the first word of dialogue




in dark anticipation


Lights gel

in sapphire blue

dancing on

ghostly white sheets

A lone figure   

stooped in shadows




in staggering gait

returns with set of ladders

places them under window

looks beyond audience


removes sheet from ashbin

peers over rim


brief laugh

shuffles towards second bin


removes sheet


shuffles centre stage

removes sheet

reveals body

slumped in wheel chair

blood stained handkerchief over face

whistle round neck

dressing gown



dark glasses

figure sighs

retreats stiffly

to original position



it’s nearly finished

it must be nearly finished…



Putney Institute Theatre

1969 cast

Nancy Bruce

Brian Wilson

Oliver Foot

Andrew Slimon


Music (keyboards, guitar, drums)

Dave Thompson (Piblokto & Vinegar Joe)

Roger Bunn (Piblokto & Roxy Music stalwart of the UK anti apartheid movement)

Rob Tait (Pete Brown’s Piblokto)

Pete Brown Sunshine of Your Life etc

With Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton's Cream

The epitome of

a post Elizabethan play

Its sparsity poetic

every line of dialogue

charged with significance

HAM: Why don’t you kill me?

CLOV: I don’t have the combination to the larder. 


Endgame was essential to the development

of our new company

The opening directions were treated like a musical score

every step and movement measured

The tighter the corner we discovered

the greater the creativity

Within a period of two years I performed this

scene in three productions

It was an incubator of learning for nuanced

signals and gestures

I learned audiences were amorphous groups who spontaneously

develop their own collective identities

The previous year I’d worked on a TV crew at the BBC

where I had been given a copy of Elias Canetti’s

Crowds and Power 

It provided an insight into how crowds

or in this case audiences react collectively

I may be accused of elaborating the process

but the license for being on stage

demands that you inform yourself to the Nth degree

and exhaustively hone your techniques

Follow this and each performance can be unique


We could have established the company as a vanity project

but ours was a changing world and we wanted

to be on the crest of innovation’s wave



We were the species inaugurator the foundation builders

it was this energy and forethought that would inject itself

into everything the company would do in the future

That being said it is fortunate that those who followed us had the

forbearance and talent to finish the job we started

Contemporary theatre was a laboratory of discovery

and in the manner of a good anarcho syndicalists

we wanted to share our new found knowledge


Bum lodged against tree trunk

September 1968

rolling cigarette

Through the thicket

a piratical figure appears

Want a light…

long dark hair

black head band

solidarity with the Vietcong

Hello I’m Oliver

are you going to the Drama Studio

let’s go in and check it out


Eggs more eggs

tons of eggs

fridge full

cracking shells


our daily lunchtime diet

In his basement flat

mid day breaks were spent

in fevered discussion

about everything and nothing

The peace and love generation

was similar to the E generation

both had hedonistic

and socially aware factions

Revolution was in the air




The Red Army Faction

The Angry Brigade

they weren't that angry

they wouldn't attack a particular property

because they thought there was a dog inside

They had a pacifist cell called the Moonshiners

1968 and all that

change hung like smoke in the air

as I passed through Paris’s

cobble strewn streets

it was a time of transformation

anything could happen


Oliver spoke of his ambition

to form a theatre company

What a great idea I thought and

not to be outdone I said- me too

Let’s join forces he suggested

I was mightily relieved

as I hadn’t the slightest clue of

how to form any kind of company


Against convention Peter Layton

didn’t require audition speeches

he put you through

an intense interview to determine

if you had a good imagination

and improvisational skills

His main teaching tools were improvisation

and empathy with your fellow performers

When improvising you have to think ahead

about options for yourself and your co-performers

His system was a method with a small m

from which we were encouraged to develop

our own individual methods

We were taught to deconstruct

and scrutinise all our preconceived ideas

It was self analysis combined with character

building techniques


Over the years working with diverse groups

from special needs to honours degree students

I used an empty shell approach linked

with the notion that we all carry the blueprint

of humanity within us and from this paradigm

we can recognise the various aspects of individuality

The image of a colour wheel is introduced to

help visualise the individuating characteristics

Differing shades and tones come to the fore

or merge into the background to form a particular entity

Difference became the defining word

find the difference and compare

When we initially did Endgame

we were unaware that in philosophy

there was a post structural dispute going on

about the theory of difference


Existentialism was the popular philosophy of the day and 

the notion of Socrates daemon concerning our inner

and outer selves had been brought to the fore by RD Laing


Peter’s system was loosely based on the work

of Edward Gordon Craig

The audience goes to the theatre

To see a performance rather than hear it

This runs parallel with the idea of anschauung

as in visual memory or conceptual thought

A learning method championed by Einstein who

may or may not have been dyslexic as purported

but who did admit to having a poor rote memory

We worked on a balance between

seeing and hearing

I would personally add smell

Sniff an audience and wait for the reaction

Craig believed in




Colour and rhythm

He worked with marionettes and masks

At first this seems at odds with

the theory of character acting

however Craig had collaborated with Stanislavski

the originator of method acting

Arrange the above elements

and you have a theatre company resembling… 


At the end of our first year

The Studio was involved in

The House of Bernarda Alba

Oliver and myself with another student

Brian Wilson were superfluous

to the production of Lorca's play

We were given our own project of

three scenes from any play of our choice

We had a term to do this

of course we had our regular classes to attend

nevertheless most of our afternoons and evenings

were to be taken up with rehearsals


At our first meeting

I produced my copy of Endgame

Oliver hadn’t read it

Brian who knew the play

was enthusiastic about it                           

The end is in the beginning and yet we go on…

exclaimed Brian

Oliver took it home to read

Elias Canetti’s deliberations on rhythm suggests that

our earliest knowledge of writing were of human and animal

footprints and for the dual reason of self protection and hunting

humans learned to read the rhythms of these tracks


Working on text entails

scrutinising your own and the other character's

for their principle objectives

major objectives

minor objectives

analysing their thought process

what they said about themselves

what they said about other characters

what they didn't say about themselves

what didn't say about other characters

what the other characters said to them

what the other characters didn't say to them

We went into every possible detail

it was an exhaustive examination


There are various ways

into a character for instance

if you can discover their breathing pattern

you can literally get under their skin

then you build

layer upon layer

An age

a name

a situation…


Delving deep into your inner self

can take you close to the edge of sanity

The popular psychology of the day

had certain esoteric connotations

with Arthur Janov’s primal scream theory

and RD Laing’s existential work Knots

Also high on the agenda was

Thomas Szasz’s anti psychiatry

It was society that was sick and not the individual

That appealed to us

we were all a bit manic



and major

I won't say who was what

A friend Peter Jones wrote

articles about the artist Richard Dadd

for Oz magazine

it introduced many of us

to the works of Carl Jung

This coincided with Brian’s interest in

Herman Hesse’s work such as Steppenwolf

and The Glass Bead Game

Jung archetypes and his concept

of the anima and the animus

were rich areas for character research


Self indulgent excavation of the psyche can leave

us wallowing in the primordial black ooze

as Beckett aptly describes it in his novel

How it is

I thank Jung for his concept

of synchronicity- even if it is mythical

it’s fascinating

Robert Graves whilst writing

The White Goddess found his books would

fall open at pertinent pages for his research

Yes this was the sixties


Freud’s teachings were not at the height of popularity

nevertheless terms such as




and Thanatos were still familiar

In a darker moments I questioned

my reasons for going on stage

I remember sitting in a class and beginning

to pen a personal thesis about the ego

The general opinion at our rehearsals was

I’d over elaborated and that

the conclusion would have sufficed…

without an ego I'd cease to exist


Brian was brought up in Taiwan

his father was a Buddhist airline pilot

his mother a Russian émigré

Everything was done for him as a child

unable to tie laces

he always wore slip-on shoes

When told it was his turn to wash the dishes

he piled them high in the sink

took a container labeled

washing up liquid

and squirted it all over the dishes

Job done


With one stipulation Endgame

was agreed upon

we would rehearse the whole play

and deal with Peter’s reaction

Brian would play Hamm

I would play Clov

Oliver would direct and play Nagg

Nancy his partner would play Nell

she would join us at a later date

Oliver's real talent was on picking

which particular boundary to push

In retrospect his rather dyslexic approach

as director was perfect for us

He had a sharp mind and was quite prepared

to cajole or sweet talk us into providing answers

The text was taken apart every word

pause and action was scrutinised

The original was written in French

Beckett translated it into English himself

With a little help from friends and a French dictionary

we scrutinised the text of the original version

We found an extra section

I still have the scribbled translation in my script

It concerned a boy gazing at his navel

After a couple of rehearsals we realised

why Beckett had removed it-  extraneous


It was a considerable time

before Brian took part

in any exercises at the Studio

he hardly uttered a word

Oliver and I wondered

if we’d ended up in a psychiatric unit

Nevertheless Peter painstakingly unraveled

a complex persona to reveal

an accomplished actor

and a highly literate individual


The time came for us to present our scenes

Peter sat quietly through our presentation of Endgame

afterwards as we shuffled nervously he remained silent

leaving us fearing the worst and thinking we could be sent forth

from the Studio

I think he enjoyed this moment before he congratulated us

and announced that he was prepared to mount

a full production of the play at a local theatre

For this single gesture all concerned with Footsbarn

owe Peter a great deal


In the Parisian bookshop Shakespeare and Co

I was berated by its owner George Whitman

for being a Scot who was unaware

of Hugh MacDiarmid’s poetry

He directed me to a box of books

where nestling next to an anthology

of MacDiarmid’s poetry was another book

whose exotic title I couldn’t resist

Tristes Tropiques-

it concerned Claude Levi Strauss's

anthropological travels in South America

My travelogue into structuralism

shamanism and post structuralism

not to mention the extraordinary and

bizarre world of 20th century French philosophy


We were always intent on remaining true to Beckett’s text

nevertheless Endgame was a vehicle of learning

Our inexperience rather than bravery allowed us to ignore

the framework and explore the outer limits of the text

We believe that we’d taken the play

into another dimension but a more likely explanation

was that it had taken us into another world

When you remove the frame from  a work of art

you soon discover why it was there in the first place

To wring as much as you can from a text

it is always best to explore beyond its borders


The meaning found in any dialogue is unique to the sender

and recipient based upon their personal understanding

of the world as influenced by the socio-cultural background



Literary criticism has elevated the text

over performance

The irony is that the spoken word

preceded the written word

Levi Straus writes of

a tribesman on witnessing the anthropologist

making notes demanded his own pencil and paper

On his return to the village Levi Straus

found the pencil wielder scribbling

on a piece of paper

Although his marks had no meaning

his action gained him status within the tribe


I've witnessed fledgling playwrights

at the Edinburgh Playwrights Workshop

overwhelmed by the often unintended

meaning professional actors can bring to their work

It reflects the post structural literary philosophy

of Différance- of that which marks a divergence

from that which is written

Modern day Shakespearian scholars should

take cognisance of this


On launching our new company

it wasn’t long before we decided to

reprise Endgame

The one change in cast being

Jan Campbell who took over the part of Nell

and Keith Bruce who joined the company as designer

I wanted Clov to have a living death mask

and I had an artist paint a portrait

of Clov on my face


The venue St Mary Abbott Theatre London

The dates 7th-12th October 1970

The Play Endgame

The company Foot's Barn

The theatre was also used by the BBC

as a rehearsal space

One well known personality

took one look at Keith's set

and asked if there was a dustman's strike

Testing the acoustics by way of a whispered rehearsal

this celebrity enquired if this was the way

we were going to perform it


The commitment was personified

by Brian who after

the dress run demanded

another cushion

Why we asked

because I pissed myself

Why didn't you stop the rehearsal

Hamm wouldn’t have he replied

You can’t deny that was dedication

The Biba shop was across the way from the theatre

Oliver and I draped ourselves

in their floppy hats and feather boas

to solicit a replacement cushion for Brian’s chair


On auto pilot during the first performance

my concentration was pitched at such a level

I could sense the rhythms of the audience

It was like conducting an orchestra of energy

By the end of the week I had an

out of the body experience

It is difficult to come to terms with

the memory of being above the action on stage

and observing yourself performing below

Likely it was an extreme blast of adrenaline

or perhaps I’d momentarily gone nuts

but it was not an unpleasant experience

A voice coach at the National Theatre

suggested that each time an actor walks

on stage the adrenaline rush is similar

to that of being in a car crash


Redrafting these recollections

I’ve entered a land of distillation

it is not dissimilar to working on the text of a play

Memories can be deceiving nevertheless

all you can do is record your personal recollections

as truthfully as possible and compare them with existing

documentation and third party observations


How did the name of the company come about




Not that simple

JP and Oliver at a college

in the USA dreamed of

starting a theatre in a barn in the UK

I had no problem of working in a barn

but using it for the name of our company

with all the connotations of 

the 1960’s ersatz barn conversions did not appeal

During a meeting in a pub

in Paddenswick Road in London

Oliver and his older brother- a fine

investigational journalist- discussed our plans

The question of the name of the company came up

after a few wacky suggestions mainly mine

such as The Last Blazing Camel

We adjourned to consider alternatives

his brother’s only caution was not to use the family name

In short

no Foot

no Barn

A week later Oliver phoned to tell me

that he was getting married to Nancy

A Quaker wedding- would I be a witness

It’s going to be announced in

the London Evening Standard Diary

I’ve used the opportunity to publicise the company he continued

I reminded him that we had yet to decide on a name


When the journalist asked the name of the company

I felt foolish for not having one said Oliver

and I blurted out Foot’s Barn Theatre

Of course the dialogue isn’t exactly verbatim

but I can remember exactly where I was at the time

of the call and the disappointment and confusion I felt


Our strategy during this period was to get on

the lucrative students union circuit

which many well known bands were on

The St Mary Abbott’s production had a lot to

do with getting some good reviews

A typical conversation would be

Are there any journalists in tonight

There’s someone from the Milan Express

Tom Wildy attended one night

and he wanted somewhere for his band

to live and rehearse

A deal was struck

Cornwall was the place

a farm was found

Tom put down the deposit

The theatre company would cover

the mortgage repayments


I wasn’t overly happy that Oliver’s used his family

name but as we’d put so much effort into the company

we came to an arrangement

If I was going to stay with the company he’d

raise the money to give me a wage

and a separate living space

in a flat being built next to the farm’s-  yes barn


We travelled to Cornwall overnight

the roads back then were not quite wagon train

material but they were not as they are now

Angie my then partner our daughter Nikki

myself and Gollum the cat convened

at Oliver and Nancy’s flat in Harrow

and with their daughter Mary Rachel we piled

into a VW van with a mattress in the back

Terry who would act as our gardener

followed behind with Maggie Watkiss and all

our belongings in a five ton Avis lorry

I can be that exact

as a student I worked

as a sign writer’s mate and I had

painted many a white line

on the sides of their vehicles

Arriving in the morning sunlight the powerful

Celtic atmosphere felt quite euphoric

All our fears about being a bunch of freaks

parachuting into Cornwall were allayed

when we discovered the Cornish people

were just as exotic as we were

and in many instances much more so

We couldn’t have found a better place to be

and I don’t think the company could have

flourished so well in any other place

The wonderful idiosyncrasies of the Cornish would

be distilled into the essence of the company  

The people were incredibly welcoming and

I couldn’t wait to get stuck in

We had travelled overnight…

yeah it took that long

We didn’t sleep as we had to unload the lorry

and set up our living quarters

Within the week we were stripping out-

the barn and pouring tons of concrete

to create a floor and making doors and windows

for our new rehearsal space


For our first production in Cornwell

we rehearsed Oliver in as Hamm and

Maggie took over the part of Nell

Richard Worthy one of the musicians

who had also trained as an actor played Nagg

The spirit of Brian was with Oliver

and everything fell into place

After a performance organised by

the kenspeckle Bernie Samuels

at the Plymouth Arts Centre

our desperate need of funding was relieved

with a grant from South West Arts

During this period I was also rehearsing Mr Martin

in Ionesco’s  Bald Prima Donna and playing

the professor in his other play The Lesson

In the mornings we assembled to take part in

dance and movement sessions

We also swapped performance skills

John Paul and Serena shared their

experiences from Le Coq

They also devised an ingenious mime

called Jeux Gratuit its style combined with

Endgame’s put down the marker

for Footsbarn’s style


As students we had travelled through thick fog

from London to Lancaster in Oliver’s Ford Anglia van

to see Grotowski’s production of The Constant Prince

The set had been constructed in the University’s gym hall

and took the form of an observational operating theatre

The spectators peered down at the cast below

led by the remarkable Ryszard Cieslak

There are two main strands to Grotowski’s work

1) stripping bare one’s own intimity

baring your soul

2) a hidden structure of signs in contradiction

people don’t always say or do what they think

This is a simplified version but I want to side step

from the mystery and weird ideas

that have gathered around his via negativa philosophy

Grotowski’s ideas are effectively covered in

Towards a Poor Theatre published in 1969

which we bought hot off the press

Our copies were well thumbed as we cross

referenced those techniques that explored the inner self

such as the New York exponents of The Method

Grotowski wanted to develop the idea of the holy actor

The Method was about encouraging individuals

to  let it all hang out akin to the primal scream philosophy

Having a resurgence in those times were

Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty and Jarry’s Ubi Roi

We also took cognisance of the Dada and Cabaret



when a person is in- a moment of psychic shock- a moment of terror-  of mortal danger or tremendous joy-  that person does not act naturally   Grotowski


Experiencing Grotowski’s work was opportune

as we were able to observe theory in action

He was a self confessed man of contradictions

his work gave us something to compare with

our own developing techniques

Planning for the new company made us consider

work beyond our individual goals

We knew we needed a distinctive style and after seeing

The Constant Prince it was clear the starting point 

was with integrity and commitment- were we up to it…


At  Lancaster there was a mysterious forty minute

hold up when we were told that the actors

weren’t ready to perform

Grotowski claimed he wanted an interactive relationship

with his spectators and this was probably an intended device

to effect a psychic conflict with the audience

I was cold hungry and my arse was stiff from sitting

in the back of the van and did not consider that I was

a typical member of a bourgeois audience

As an estranged spectator I wanted to have parity

and a similar right to decide when I felt ready to spectate

Apart from that it was an extraordinary experience

I’m thankful that I underwent that pre performance

alienation which wasn’t exactly Brechtian

My critical faculties were on alert and it allowed

me to consider Grotowski’s other contradictions

as apposed to differance  

He advocated removing blocks in search of contradictory

signs whereas we broke down our material

in search of different signals

A simple illustrations of our technique-

when playing a drunk you don’t act drunk…

drunks are desperately trying to act sober

Actors portraying drunks with sober or focused eyes

are not in the least convincing


My inclination was towards collaborative work

I didn’t wish to be an Grotowski styled actor priest

Oliver was altruistic in that he wanted to put magic on

the stage and take it to communities that didn’t have theatres

I wanted to continue my education with socially significant material


In the 60’s there was a lot of spirituality and mysticism

swirling around creating something like a second reformation

For the first time in centuries the bible was no longer

the main reference point for public morals and behaviour

Grotowski’s was both inside and outside of time

even as a self proclaimed sacrilegious secularist

he appealed to the mystically inclined

Of course he was steeped in the Catholic

or rather the anti Catholic culture

as mentioned by Peter Brooks in his foreword

in Towards a Poor Theatre

Brooks also quoted the playwright John Arden 

whom I witnessed over his kitchen table lamenting-

I wished I could rip off this protestant mask            

John was replying to my then Jesuit educated collaborator

who had commented that the only thing that might tempt

him back to the Catholic Church was its sense of ritual

There was one main ingredient missing from Grotowski’s work

as exemplified by the following story

Whilst I was touring in the GDR with the post Brechtian writer

and director Albert Hunt with his production of

The Destruction Of Dresden

he related a story about working on US

the anti-Vietnam protest play with the RSC

The actors had been persuaded to sit for a period

with paper bags over their heads to identify with those

suffering sensory deprivation

After this exercise Glenda Jackson suggested that

the directors and writers which included- Albert

Adrian Mitchell

Peter Brook

and Jerzy Grotowski

-should carry out the same exercise

After an interminable period they took off their hoods

to find the actors had quietly tiptoed off for lunch

Albert and Adrian Mitchell found it very funny

Brook and Grotowski were not amused


Grotowski denounced the Rich Theatre

-rich in flaw-  as he called it

in our youthful way we railed

against the star system of the commercial theatre

While Grotowski objected to the use of lights

sound and costume etc

we embraced all the creative arts

and as performers we were eager to build sets

design and work the lights stick up posters

parade in the street in short anything

to do with a production


By the time Oliver took over the role of Hamm

the position of director had dissipated

I’d always observed with notes

his performance of Nagg

when it came to him playing Hamm

I repeated the process

and the idea of collective direction

began to evolve


After Footsbarn I was involved in starting several

new companies working in agitprop

and community theatre my forays into commercial theatre

left me disappointed especially at the lack of integrity

The actors weren’t the main culprits it was those

around them such as the administrators who fancied

themselves as creative forces and those inexperienced

directors who depended on the actors creativity

to learn their trade

The actors were not encouraged to be fully involved

in the totality of a production indeed they were persuaded

to disassociate themselves when not rehearsing their

particular parts thus relinquishing all power to the directors-

who in essence become their surrogate parents


Hamm had a particular influence on my work

the biggest insult you can give an actor

is to accuse them of being a ham

It hits right at the centre of their vulnerability

and that’s exactly why it’s a crucial

area of exploration for a performer

It’s that part of you that pulls a face in a mirror

or mucks about in intimate situations

To quote one preeminent actor

It’s like wiggling your bum when you’re doing the ironing

If you expose this most vulnerable part

of your personality to an audience

it will leave the performer with nothing left to hide

and paradoxically it make them virtually

indestructible on stage


The original members in  Cornwall

were all extraordinary individuals and highly

talented  performers



John Paul


and Angie who played Mrs Martin

in the Bald Prima Donna

also sharing their talents with us

were Tom Wildy and Richard Worthy

both actor musicians in the band

Dave Johnston the first new member to join us

in Cornwall brought a wealth of creativity

After our initial success we turned our attention

to Cornish myths and legends

We managed some short pieces such as

Tregeagle and the Perran Cherrybeam

which were constructed mainly though improvisation

Our main problem was we had no experienced

writers amongst us I’d written plays at the Studio

and had one performed but I hadn’t developed

my technique enough to take on the role at Footsbarn

Oliver wanted me to concentrate on performance

maybe I should have prevaricated as we ended up

with an embarrassing piece

called the Fairies on the Gump St Just

with a pregnant fairy leading

a hippy type procession

I still cringe at the thought of it

Luckily Dave Johnston expanded on the work

we did with Tregeagle and the Perran Cherrybeam

and came up with a script called Giant

For the first time he brought together

all the skills and techniques

that existed within the company

I’ve always puzzled why the company didn’t

nurture Dave’s writing as it would have made

them a self contained unit


Keith Bruce rejoined us after a few months

in doing so we saved him from a design

career with the BBC

Not only was he key to the visual

effect of the company

he added another dimension to the style

especially with his mask work


Several years later while organising

a tour of my one man show Tangled Spights

my director had a meeting with Ian Watson of South West Arts

He told her that our production of Endgame

Was the finest theatrical experience he’d witnessed

This from the author of Conversations With

Ayckbourn was quite an unexpected compliment

It was due to Endgame that Footsbarn received

the funding that gave the company its initial

foothold in Cornwall

Ian told a story about Oliver arriving

at his office in a panic-  things weren’t

working out with the company and that

I was intent on leaving

No one is irreplaceable said Ian but there is one way

to solve both problems by having Joan Littlewood

to come and work with the company

He’d already spoken to her

For one reason or another Oliver didn’t take up the offer

If I’d been given the option I certainly would have stayed


While Oliver was still running Orbis

we were driving through the Trossachs

to spend New Year at a friend’s farm

he turned to me with a mischievous grin and said

it’s amazing that we managed

to get a theatre company together

What do you imagine Footsbarn would think about

being formed by a dyslexic crazy like me and

a brain damaged lunatic like you

He’d known I'd had a sledging accident

as an eight year old and

relearning to read and write

was a tough act in those days as

there was no specialised assistance

Victims were left to stew in their own confusion

I'd been unconscious for three days

my brain was scrambled

it required synaptic rewiring

Of course I didn't have the vocabulary

or understanding at the time

I simply had an overwhelming desire

to  write again

Later in life when exploring the idiosyncrasies

of the brain I came across

the NMDA neuron receptor

I was delighted to discover our language

control centre consisted of methyl

a hypothetical radical

of the monocarbon series

How scientifically poetic

It's the base of wood spirits such as absinthe

How alcoholic

Another extraordinary component of our thought

process is aspartate or asparagine

nitrogenous 4/5th air

a crystallisable compound

found especially in asparagus

a primary malic diamide

So lyrical

To consider that asparagus juice and absinthe

are so influential in our thought processes

is a paradox which inspired

NMDA a twenty minute dance track

Recorded by the Mercury Prize nominated band

Mouse Eat Mouse

The words are published in the Grind Magazine’s first issue


Why did I leave Footsbarn…

for a variety of reasons

It seemed we were entering an area that was more

akin to children’s theatre which would have been fine

if that had been the intention

children’s theatre is a specialised field


I had to change my mind when I saw the company’s

breathtaking production of Hamlet

It had everything in production and style that we

could have conjectured when starting out

With all the magic ingredients Oliver imagined

It also had Norman Scott glaring across the aisle

at Jeremy Thorpe whom he’d accused

of conspiring to murder him


In big Top


Silhouettes drift

Shades within shades

Zephyrs of expectation

Too long the dark

Isles of anxiety 

Edge forward

In primal alert





Zirconium yellow

Thorium silver

Cerium flint

Eyes scream    

In illumination

A galaxy of sprites


Poles apart

Trailing streams

Of fantasy



Hang the air

They touch the Earth

In elemental play


My theatre development was in limbo and

I found the lifestyle at Trewen wearisome

Obliged to sing Hare Krishna and taking part in

other bizarre ceremonies were difficult to withstand

My personal style was to keep busy and focused

and it didn’t help that I was skint and after we’d

gained funding my proposed wages didn’t materialise

Supposedly all the money was going into paying

off the mortgage of which I had no share

I was working flat out and the food was

basically aduki beans and a poor quality of rice

which tasted of horse shit and Jerusalem artichokes

the cats had pissed over

Some funding went into a communal pot

which would have been fine if it hadn’t been

the case that many of the people

who were enjoying the benefits were not

contributing to the community or had personal

allowances and kept secret hoards of food

I can remember doing pub and beach shows

to get pocket money it was all pretty basic

Hangers on were beginning to introduce dope

into the community I would never claim that

we were a squeaky clean bunch and I had no

moral objection to smoking a bit of hash

or marijuana but my drug was alcohol

Nevertheless before travelling to Cornwall

we had made a pact of no dope on site as

we’d be sitting ducks for the infamous

Plymouth drug squad

It was a difficult situation

trying to deal with this whilst struggling artistically

My energy could be displaced and I was no doubt a pain

in the arse but I was an industrious pain in the arse


I didn’t immediately severe my ties with Footsbarn

as I returned at Oliver’s behest to do some

street theatre as he’d made bookings

for a period when the others were on holiday

After fulfilling these gigs Oliver went on holiday

and a member of the community summonsed

me and told me I’d have to pay rent

This was hard to stomach as this individual

wouldn’t have been there if it hadn’t been for my efforts

I spent the next three weeks shoveling a century of dung

from a neighbour’s steading but when I got down

to the bullshit I packed my bags and returned to London

a physical and emotional wreck

I was homeless

burnt out

with no prospects

or contacts for work

I’d invested

all my energies

hopes and desires

into creating Footsbarn

and they wanted rent money


I found work in a toy factory In Chelsea

making Newton’s cradles

It took me a couple of years to get back on stage

I was working alongside the actor Sandy Morton

who introduced me to the artistic director Ron Travis

at The Unity Theatre where I worked as an actor

and director before joining their artistic board


It wasn’t overlong before Oliver

returned to London

he was in a worse state than I’d been

when I left Footsbarn

I got him a couple of acting jobs

He turned up at the Toy Factory in poor health

and with a doctor friend we got him into

a sheltered community called L’Abri


While  was working with

The General Will Theatre in Bradford

Oliver turned up on our doorstep

Suzi my partner had never seen him sober before

she congratulated him on his sobriety

and told him how brave he’d been

He always reminded her of those encouraging words

and how much it had helped him at the time

Looking fit and full of enthusiasm for life

he told us of his horrific struggle with alcohol

Although he made no reference to my drinking

his visit influenced my abstinence

which over the years would act as a

touchstone in our relationship

A week later he flew off to New York

to reinvent himself and to be near Nancy and the kids


Twiddling the knobs on my radio 

I thought I recognised a familiar vowel

it couldn’t be…it was

Scrolling back I heard Oliver being interviewed

about a flying eye hospital called Orbis

I laughed with glee and left a message at his office

Almost immediately he phoned me back

with a proposal for yet another theatre company

This time it was to disseminate community health information

to support their medical programme in the third world

I went to New York and it was like a replay of starting

Footsbarn- only this time we were to have our own aircraft

Unfortunately our plans didn’t come to fruition

he had to turn his attention to raising thirty million

dollars to buy and fit out a newly acquired DC-10


In the early 1990’s

I collaborated with Scottish Television in making

A documentary about Oliver called The International Beggar

Where he was filmed asking for donations

from those such as George Soros

Having witnessed him interacting with his fellow

Jamaicans it was obvious where he gained his hustling skills

Give us a dollar man

Yeah man if you give me your tee shirt


It should be remembered

no matter Oliver’s later health issues

when he first took over at Orbis it was grounded

with a management in disarray

It was his PR skills and his persistence

that got them off the ground

This included sitting for a fortnight outside a tent

in the middle of a desert waiting to speak to a certain

Sheik in order to raise half a million dollars

to get the plane into operational mode

Shame on those who ignore this 


Over the years we had our disagreements

he accused me of being puritanical and mercurial

I got annoyed when he compartmentalised

his friends and associates and for not always

laying all his cards on the table

Nevertheless I witnessed his generosity in Jamaica

where he took care of more than one family

who were in dire circumstances

In the Blue Mountains he had the sobriquet

of the General no doubt for the effort he’d put

into the local community especially being

instrumental in getting a fresh water supply installed


Oliver was a larger than life personality

he was a talented raconteur and his sense of fun

was at times outrageous and he was more than capable

of pulling a fast one but it has to be remembered

that he gave far more to this world than he took from it

He sacked me and I sacked him

and no doubt we both deserved it

No matter the ups and downs I would never

of missed having him as a pal for most of his life

The last contact I had with him was upsetting

as he seemed to be consumed with guilt

he left me a message on the answer phone asking

for forgiveness for anything he had done to me

I suppose this came from him for going along

with the mythical virgin birth of Footsbarn in Cornwall

It had an unfortunate effect on my career after Footsbarn

especially before I could rebuild my CV

Whenever I claimed to be the co founder of the company

I was accused of being disingenuous 

Jacques Lecoq has been given credit by those who

followed in our footsteps but Peter Layton

who had such a big influence on the company

has not been accredited

This is unfortunate as the company is missing

out on such a rich part of its history


Over the next four decades wherever I met Oliver

whether taking prototype selfies in Glen Coe

New York or Jamaica he always wanted

to reminisce about Endgame

Let’s do one last production he’d enthuse

I’ll organise it

we can do a world tour

I’d laugh

No man I’m serious

It is an example of how Endgame

played a seminal part in his working life

He continued suggesting this until he had

a near fatal motorcycle accident

after which he retreated from the world

where I hope he found peace and solace


Over the years he sent postcards

photographs and information about Orbis

such as copies of letters to him from Ronald Regan

and George Bush- it was if he’d reinvented

the theatre of the absurd

He told many comical stories about his meetings

with world leaders

Scrambling about in Fidel Castro’s beard trying

to locate a disobedient Orbis lapel pin

This was after he’d played a fast one when

he broke the US embargo on flights to Cuba

Performing a crude Commedia style Arlequino as

his after dinner party piece for the Chinese Politburo

His life was like one long exotic performance


The old Ford Anglia van that we travelled

up to Lancaster in had carried in its back

its fair share of luminaries

When the van passed over to his younger brother

who was managing Bob Marley at the time

the Rasta star found Oliver’s father’s old

felt hat in the back and had worn it for a period 

- Hugh Foot helped to deliver Jamaica’s independence-

On a visit to stay with us Oliver bequeathed

this hat to Suzi and it still hangs in our house

No one believes that old hat is so illustrious

but it is a reminder to us of two super novas


To all those who suffer from dyslexia or brain damage

I’d like to add an encouraging foot note

Memories of researching Cornish myths and legends

came flooding back in the 1980’s

when I became the inaugural chair of

The Glasgow branch of The Scots Language Society

my enthusiasm lay in the experience

at my village school where we spoke English

in class and Scots in the playground

My first creative inklings were to write

in the rich language of the people

of our village and the surrounding farmlands

I was taken to Perth Theatre

where dialogue entered my consciousness

and this helped greatly in my process of learning

to read and write again

I accidently discovered that cutting out cardboard

frames and placing them over a text

helped with my concentration

It was these experiences that were useful

when I became an aspiring actor

Although having problems with my literacy

I was scoring well in IQ tests

it’s not that I had a high IQ- whatever that is

I had discovered the technique to work them out

from a TV programme called Pencil and Paper

I can remember doing a test for a certain electronics

Engineering Company that was making so called

defence missiles

I astounded everyone

by achieving almost a perfect score

My disability was well hidden

until technical drawing and the mysteries

the angles of screw threads signalled the end

of my days as a would be boffin

A big plus from this experience was that  my

fellow apprentice rocket engineers

introduced me to CND  


Whilst  researching T. H. Morgan's

the embryologist’s work with fruit flies

I came across the neurobiologist

Tim Tully who uncannily as a youngster 

had a sledging accident and  a period

of unconsciousness similar to mine

Tully went onto researching memory enhancers

and his life experience led him to advocating

an educational system that was shaped

for the individual which echoed our method

Having been written off in my early days from

having any form of academic career

I’ve been fortunate enough beginning with

Footsbarn to have had an full life in the creative arts

My luck held out and I went on to collaborate with some

extraordinary people



who’s there…

some remarkable happenings


My daughter Nikki the first Footsbarn dressing room babe

instigated this article