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All the world’s a stage for Paul Roseby

PUBLISHED: 10:24 12 July 2016 | UPDATED: 10:24 12 July 2016

Paul Roseby, director of National Youth Theatre

Paul Roseby, director of National Youth Theatre

Archant © 2011

From playing a panto dame as a Norfolk schoolboy to co-ordinating an Olympic stadium performance for an audience of billions, Paul Roseby is a born entertainer

As a child Paul Roseby gazed out of the huge windows of his Hunstanton high school and dreamed of running away to the circus.

Instead he won a place at the National Youth Theatre, became a television presenter, and is now chief executive and artistic director of the charity which opened the world of the theatre to him.

Today, Paul’s friends include some of Britain’s best-known actors and television presenters and he shares stages with princes and politicians, but it all began in a B&B in Dersingham, on the edge of the Sandringham estate. Paul’s parents ran a bed and breakfast business and he says: “I was surrounded by strangers from a very early age and every evening I would go and talk to them. It was all about communication, finding out about other people and what other people’s lives were like.”

His own life was not always easy. He was 12 when his older sister died of breast cancer, leaving two young children.

“I’m not recommending grief as an educational tool. It was very challenging, but in those days you got on with it. You put on that slap, put on that smile, and carried on. I realised at an early age that life isn’t all roses around the door.”

Paul was a pupil at Smithdon High School, Hunstanton. “It is really well known for its Brutalist architecture but it was never brutal, it was always a very gentle place to be. I loved it because I loved the modernity of it.”

He joined Dersingham Village Players and enjoyed drama at school, where the first role he remembers was as pantomime dame Widow Twankey. “It taught me everything I know today!” laughs Paul.

He went on to study drama at City College Norwich, then won a place on a National Youth Theatre course. The bright lights of the theatre lured him to London – but he still often returns to his beloved Norfolk, to visit his parents in Aylsham, his brother and sister in Hevingham, and the north Norfolk coast.

“It’s a beautiful part of the world and I have such fond memories of it,” says Paul, who turns 50 this year. “I think it is one of the most beautiful parts of the world and I can’t say a bad word about Norfolk or Norfolk people. There is something so romantic and real about that coast.”

And when he meets with the royal patron of The National Theatre, Prince Edward, he is able to share memories of growing up near Sandringham. “We would just see the royals going into the corner shop or the local church service or out riding.”

Paul toured Britain and abroad with the National Youth Theatre, funding his courses with a series of part-time jobs before developing a career in advertising, radio and television.

He is passionate about his current job too, frustrated by lack of funding, delighted by the successes of the thousand young people who, this summer, are part of the National Youth Theatre. They will be presenting new plays around the country, covering topics ranging from social media trolling to turning 60, plus Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

One of his proudest moments was in Beijing. “It did actually bring me to tears of joy. It was at the handover ceremony for the next, London 2012 Olympics and young people from the National Youth Theatre sang the National Anthem in the Bird’s Nest stadium to 2.4 billion people. It had been a lot of hard work to make it happen. I have never had a baby but I imagine that all the pain melts away in a similar way.”

Each year a new group of young people gets the same chance as Paul to train with the National Youth Theatre. In Norfolk auditions are held at Norwich Theatre Royal, and the organisation also works with schools in Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and Wells.

“It’s a brilliant national institution which nurtures young talent,” says Paul. “We have long lives now, I think that perhaps we have three careers. My first was in television, my second is with the National Youth Theatre. I don’t know what the third might be - I like making a difference, so possibly local politics. But I don’t know which party I’d stand for. I want to campaign for independence and opportunity and equality.”

The National Youth Theatre, which develops the talent of young people aged between 14 and 25, is 60 this year. The first organisation of its kind in the world, it has nurtured the talent of hundreds of thousands of young people, aged between 14 and 25. Its courses provide practical experience in performance and technical theatre, and alumni include Helen Mirren, Daniel Craig, Colin Firth, Daniel Day-Lewis, Orlando Bloom, Catherine Tate, Ben Kingsley, Derek Jacobi, David Walliams, Matt Lucas, Hugh Bonneville and, Matt Smith and many more. National Youth Theatre members also go on to leadership roles in politics, business, law, the media and medicine.

Next year’s auditions are now open, to find out more visit www.nyt.org.uk

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