School Days

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 May, 2009, 12:00am

From an early age I was always doing things which, with hindsight, indicated that the theatre and entertainment were where my future lay.

Much of my journey through life goes back to growing up in the freedom of the countryside, wanting to experiment, climb trees and find birds' nests, and fortunately my education helped harness all of that.

Long before school, I'd charge my parents to watch me play with my toy fort. At the age of three, I ran a bike show rigging up flashing lights with music.

By the age of six, I was starring in my first production Rumpelstiltskin, taking the lead role. I can still recite the lines from that performance at the age of 52. That production was probably a seminal moment in my life.

At school, I was also in productions and for some unknown reason would often play the girls' parts. Clearly, I loved the concept of theatre and it was Brian May of the rock band Queen who told me of Henry Cundall who was co-owner of the original Globe Theatre in London which staged the works of William Shakespeare.

Luckily for me, school was like a buffet restaurant because you could sample all that was on offer. It was this incredible smorgasbord of opportunity.

I was fortunate to have the education that I did, and I have a great fondness for those times.

I was also very lucky. I was sent away to prep school at the age of eight, first near Scarborough in Yorkshire and then to Uppingham, in Rutland.

Of course I found it hard to go away to school at such a young age. At prep school, dad was chairman of the governors and he'd visit. I'd see him in the distance but was never allowed to talk to him when he was wandering around.

I also clearly remember a Dickensian teacher called Mr Gamble who taught English. We'd have to spell words such as Orinoco and Bangkok, and he'd use his big, hard hand if we got them wrong. I can still feel Orinoco to this day.

However what made my education unique was the opportunities that were open to me. There was a design building, a theatre and I was also captain of the fencing team as well being in the rugby squad.

Whatever school you're at, you owe it to yourself to dip your toe in and try anything that's available to you. Don't sneer or sniff at the opportunities presented to you.

I was also fortunate to be brought up on a 1,000-acre farm, as dad was a farmer and livestock auctioneer. Farm life taught me a lot about hard work and the workings of the countryside. I was exposed to all these wonderful people who'd lived that kind of life from when they were born.

From an early age my father made us take part in farm life, and one thing I had to do was pull the weeds from the cornfields. Nowadays there's a spray that does the job, which shows how times have modernised.

Because it was preordained that I'd go into the family business of estate agents and auctioneers, I left school for Cirencester Agricultural College which I loathed. It was like a spoilt brats' club.

I left there to work as a chartered surveyor for five years becoming a junior partner before realising it wasn't for me. So I changed direction and became a fund manager, which brought me to Hong Kong.

I learned from all of this that it's never too late to change direction if you're going up the wrong alley. Just because you start off being an engine driver, doesn't mean you have to continue doing it. (Not that there's anything wrong with being that anyway.)

Working in Hong Kong was a lot of hard work as it is for most people and I felt I also could be running a company.

Lunchbox Theatrical Productions emerged in 1992 as a result of that and was formed by a group of Hong Kong businessmen, including a barrister, solicitor and property developer who I knew and met for lunch.

There were all these big shows coming out of London and we wanted to bring them to Hong Kong. Not that we knew anything about how to do that but we learned and it's been successful.

I've discovered you have to follow your dreams, to follow your hunches and to take the odd risk.

There was a time when I was thrilled to be a surveyor, then a fund manager and now I love being an international producer.