Actor and writer Nicholas Collett loves rural touring: ‘You find yourself in vastly different places; touring in the Lebanon just after the war finished in 1995 and meeting different people, mainly him bumping into Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin while touring in the Highlands. Memorable for different reasons!’ These are the everyday experiences that rural touring delivers. From Lebanon to Robert Plant, expect it all. He says, ‘there is no hint of elitism. You come to the hall – your audience’s home turf – and tell them a story. I really love the intimacy. I like to have a chat and a beer afterwards.’
His ease of manner resembles the way he started acting: ‘I kind of fell into it – I auditioned for ensemble in an amateur production of ‘Oliver’ when I was 11 and was cast as the Artful Dodger.’ That’s all you need. His dad worked in the steel industry in Sheffield and his Mum was a housewife with a keen interest in amateur dramatics. At 15 he joined the National Youth Theatre and followed that with university and Bristol Old Vic.
This season, Nicholas is touring two shows with Live & Local, ‘Your Bard’ and ‘Spitfire Solo’. ‘Your Bard’ is still quite fresh – the piece was only made in 2016. The story goes that Professor Nother is giving a talk about Shakespeare authorship in the function room at the Shakespeare pub – but he doesn’t believe the man from Stratford wrote those plays. That’s Will’s cue to kick the door off the hinges and defend his reputation.
Spitfire Solo is more personal. ‘The show goes back to 2010 and I haven’t performed it for a little while.’ His first idea was to adapt ‘First Light’ by Geoffrey Wellum, but as the rights were elsewhere, he created the character of Peter Walker instead. The 80-year-old WWII veteran looking back on his life is as Nicholas explains, ‘a combination of many people, but chiefly based on my father. He was in the Navy on the Atlantic Convoys, not the RAF, but it’s about discipline and tenacity, common to all the forces. I wanted to tell a story about the Battle of Britain.’
Nicholas was awarded the British Arrows Best Performance award (an award for acting in television adverts) working with Hollywood actor Jeff Goldblum. Was it a good experience? ‘It was great fun. He’s very generous, very funny, very twinkly. We had a lot of fun shooting the ad, he’s completely unafraid to try stuff. He has an aura too – you are very aware that he’s a special performer.’
With his busy touring schedule, Nicholas isn’t worried about burn out. It is simply for him about ‘getting enough sleep!’ Between sleeping and waking, Nicholas will be performing in a new play called ‘Oysters’ about Johannes Brahms which recently premiered at the Adelaide Fringe. It will be touring the UK in June and hopefully America after. While this summer he heads to the Edinburgh Fringe: ‘I’ll be playing the Counsellor in the award-winning Korean play ‘Black & White Tea Room’ at the Assembly Rooms. It’s all go!’ It most definitely is.
Make sure you catch Nicholas for a chat and that beer after his show!