Stages of life

PUBLISHED: 06:25 25 August 2014

David Lambert, head of the theatre school, pictured at Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: Steve Adams

David Lambert, head of the theatre school, pictured at Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: Steve Adams


Despite his parents’ best efforts to dissuade him, David Lambert always knew he would follow their footsteps into the theatre. And for students, past and present, of the Norwich Theatre Royal’s art course they will always be thankful that he ignored their advice.

“Both my mother and father worked in the theatre and they tried desperately to put me off. You spend most of your life not working, not having any money. There is no stability, it is actually a ghastly profession, but of course I took no notice of them,” he laughs.

During the quarter of a century that David has been in charge of the arts course it has quadrupled in size, with demand for places continuing to grow. Around 500 children and adults attend the various classes every year – and many of his pupils have gone on to win critical acclaim and huge commercial success on the stage and screen, including Hunger Games actor Sam Claflin.

As part of the course, David also writes and directs many performances and productions throughout the year for the students and runs nationally accredited exam classes.

Educated in Worcester and having trained at the prestigious Bristol Old Vic, he arrived in Norwich – where his father grew up – having spent some years as an actor and a freelance director.

“When I saw the job advertised in Norwich, the idea of some stability and a regular income appealed. Initially, I thought I would do it for five years and then go back into acting and directing, but here I still am, I have just enjoyed it so much,” he says.

Funny and outspoken with a caustic wit, he has opinions on everything from reality television to past and present Government’s attitudes to drama in school.

“Arts are being shunted off the curriculum and it really is just a terrible, ridiculous decision. Drama isn’t just about a career on the stage, it really boosts confidence and it makes for more rounded, interesting people. It teaches children about literature, about people and just about every single life skill you can imagine.”

He says people’s motivation for attending drama classes has changed dramatically since he first started.

“Most people were here because it was something they enjoyed more as a hobby or something to add to their skill set. Now, often kids come to us because they want to be famous. We do a lot of managing expectations. These TV programmes give young people the wrong perception that it is easy. It isn’t - it takes hard work and dedication.”

Since he arrived in Norwich, he has directed more than 150 productions, as well as writing several musicals for the junior theatre – this year’s big summer production is a version of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows in August.

“For many of our students, it might be the biggest stage they ever play on and it really is a fantastic, moment – although it takes a lot of hard work and patience to get them there,” he laughs.

David is incredibly proud of all of those who have gone on to have a career in the profession.

“Sometimes someone comes in and you can tell they have something special, it is what I call the fire in the belly and I have seen it several times here. ways feel very proud of those who go on to use their talents. It is not just the high profile success stories like Sam Claflin, who I keep seeing on the side of busses, there are lots of ex-pupils working up and down the country on the stage in some phenomenally successful productions winning rave reviews.”

Making an impact

Talented ex-pupils of the Norwich theatre Royal arts course include:

Sam Claflin – A host of film, TV and stage appearances including the Hunger Games movies, the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film, Channel Four’s epic drama Pillars of the Earth and the acclaimed BBC2 series White Heat.

Martin Hutson – Stage credits include Octavius in Antony and Cleopatra opposite Kim Cattrall, Taking Sides and Collaboration in the West End, and productions for the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and Crucible. TV roles include The Passion, A Very British Sex Scandal and Foyle’s War.

Lisa Ellis – Roots at the Donmar Warehouse opposite fellow former arts course students Carl Prekopp and Nic Jackman. Other roles include as Marni in EastEnders and in series including Holby City and Foyle’s War. Stage roles include The Canterbury Tales for the Royal Shakespeare Company, A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Sheffield Crucible, and A Christmas Carol for Chichester Festival Theatre.

Jonathan Munby - Currently creative associate for the English Touring Theatre. He was nominated for an Outstanding Director Helen Hayes Award for The Dog In The Manger at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington DC. Directing credits include Antony and Cleopatra (Globe Theatre), Wendy and Peter Pan (Royal Shakespeare Company), Measure for Measure (Shakespeare Theater Company, Washington) and She Stoops To Conquer (Birmingham Rep and UK tour).

Lloyd Gorman – Reecey in Our House (Wolsey Theatre and UK tour), lead in Faust (Greenwich Theatre and the Oxford House Theatre, and several productions for the Octagon Theatre in Bolton, including Sweeney Todd, Harmless, and Romeo and Juliet.

Daniel Burgess – Directing credits include The Dispossessed (Etcetera Theatre), Beating Heart Cadaver (Finborough Theatre), Days of Significance (Norwich Theatre Royal Youth Company) and The Pillowman (Norwich Theatre Royal Actors Company). He was also associate director for Orpheus and Eurydice for the National Youth Theatre, and assistant director for various productions for The Globe.

Carl Prekopp – A wide range of stage, TV and radio productions, including Lewis and The Bill, as well as many BBC Radio plays. He has also enjoyed a diverse stage career including Calendar Girls in the West End and on tour, Richard III at Riverside Studios, and Sexual Perversity in Chicago for the Norwich Theatre Royal Actors Company.

Jack Bannon – Jack is best known for playing the role of Sam Thursday in two series of ITV’s Sunday night hit Endeavour. Other previous credits include the BBC’s Shadow Play and films including Kids In Love and The Imitation Game

“It’s only us”

Young people have the chance to star in a production of Lord of the Flies, alongside the professional cast of New Adventures, run by world-renowned choreographer Matthew Bourne. The company has launched a search for young male performers aged 10 to 25 to star in the production when it takes to the stage at Norwich Theatre Royal, November 19 to 22.

There will be a series of workshops throughout the summer introducing the story of Lord of the Flies, exploring characterisation and performance techniques.

Auditions are in September, when about 20 young people will enter an intensive rehearsal period to help bring the ground-breaking project to the stage.

Contact Victoria Abrahams on 01603 598528,

Lord Of The Flies, November 19 to 22, tickets £6.50-£28;

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