Timothy West Back At John Lyon

Read about Timothy West's return to School

Date: Tue 2 Oct 2018   Author:    Category: General   Share: Share on facebookShare on TwitterShare on PinterestShare by Email

We were delighted to welcome back former John Lyon pupils, Timothy West and Ethan Peters to talk about School, theatre, and careers in acting.

Timothy West, who was at John Lyon from 1946 – 1952, spoke of the complete lack of theatre and drama facilities at the time, in contrast to the thriving drama scene at present.  He did, however, act in the Old Lyonian’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1952, which he thought was possibly the first play he ever acted in.  Even at that age and in his first production, Timothy received special mention in the School magazine: “where all were so conscientious it is hard to spotlight any: but still a special word of praise is due to the young players T. West (Egeus) and D. Wilson (Philostrate).”

Despite the lack of plays at the School at the time, there was opportunity for acting:  Timothy spoke with fondness and admiration for his then English teacher, “Sammy” Cowtan, whose love of literature infected many young John Lyon pupils in the 1950s and who would give the boys the chance to act scenes of Shakespeare in class.

Asked by Ethan (OL 2009 - 2016) about his advice for budding actors, Timothy emphasised the importance of practice.  He spoke about his early career in repertory theatre, performing in excess of 40 plays in a year, learning lines within days and performing plays over a few nights before moving on to the next show.  He felt this was invaluable experience for young actors, allowing them to practice a vast range of roles.  He also advised young actors wishing to perform Shakespeare to go outside and shout the lines at each other in open spaces where the archaic words and seemingly overblown language sound better than in the confines of a small studio.  We will now look forward to seeing boys shouting at each other in the playground!

For those wanting to pursue acting, he said to go into TV for fame, film for the money and stage for the love of theatre and literature. 

The 100 strong audience, of boys, their friends and families, staff and Old Lyonians, had the opportunity to ask further questions: about Timothy’s favourite part – although hard to say, probably King Lear; his favourite theatre - he has much affection for Bristol Old Vic; why he took on certain roles - because he was asked to! 

We were extremely honoured that Timothy stayed for the double bill of productions put on by the Middle Road Theatre Company – The Waiting Room, written by Ethan, and an abridged Waiting for Godot, where Ethan and Alex Clarke (OL 2010 – 2017) faced each other to lurch between friendship and bickering, despondency and hope.  Timothy was impressed by the very talented duo, in their highly amusing version of Beckett’s famous play, and stayed behind to give them advice on stage directions for The Waiting Room, a play “full of interesting ideas”.

The Waiting Room, by Ethan Peters, directed by Alex Clarke – where uncertainty, inequity and dark humour mark the time.