Photo by Lee Woolcock
Julian Wickham, Theatre Writer, director and founder of The English Drama School, 25, British
I was a professional actor in London for a good six years. I trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) in London; I did a three-year BA in Stage, Screen and Acting. I didn’t really go through the motions of being a student in a shedhouse, if you know what I mean. I had my own flat, I was working two jobs at the same time. But it was world-class drama training and it was the best school for what I wanted to do at the time.
After training, I won Best Young Player of the Year in 2009. That was when I played the young lawyer Paul Bratter in Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park with a company called the Compton Players. It was lovely to get an award. I also enjoyed playing Mercutio with the RSC, but that was hard work.
For some reason, I stopped getting acting jobs. So, I decided to try my hand at something else: freelance writing. I did that for about six months, but I didn’t have much success.
I just got a bit bored of the ‘la-de-da’ of London, so I thought I’d try it out here. It was basically a decision between either Barcelona or San Francisco. I figured I’d find it easier to integrate myself and get around the paperwork if I came to Barcelona. [When] my parents divorced, I went on holiday to Venezuela with my Dad. I ended up living there for two years as a teenager on a beautiful island called Margarita. I learnt Spanish over there so it was a lot easier for me to settle down a bit here, because I already knew the lingo.
I was here for about six months before I started the drama school. It’s aimed at young adults and expats in Barcelona. I rent my own theatre in downtown Barcelona. I’m very lucky to have the theatre. The size is quite big for someone of my level. It can fit 120 people sitting down. I do intend to invest in some proper lighting at some point!
There’s nobody doing things quite like me. I’m not a theatre company, I’m a theatre school, you see. I don’t necessarily work with actors. There’s no audition to join. Anyone can join. I think that’s quite ambitious of me. I’m original—I write, produce and direct all of our shows. I spend a lot of my time in front of a computer. The last play I wrote, Playing with Fire, which was performed in Barcelona last January, was heavily autobiographical.
It’s gotten really big really quickly. I even have two members of staff now. I have a personal assistant who makes things a lot easier for me. And my set designer is fantastic. She’s going to be able to build a much bigger set this time. In the early days, back in October, sometimes four or five people showed up. Now, over 30 people come every week.
I’ve written a play called The Secret of Anabelle Veritas, with a cast of 16 people, which was inspired by Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. It’s about a young girl who moves from the north of England to London in her teenage years and inherits a lot of money. The play really exposes our mortality and challenges, our ideals of beauty. It also deals with concepts such as innocence and youth, and the darkness that influences and lingers nearby. It’s a pretty dark play.
I’m concurrently working on The Taming of the Shrew, with a cast of 18 people, which will be performed in June. Obviously I didn’t write that! But, I’ve adapted it; it’s set in modern-day Hollywood.
I don’t enjoy going to the theatre as much as I used to. I’m obviously looking at the surroundings, the way the actors have been directed, and all the things that I can read between the lines of. I’m also looking for actors I can poach to use in my own company!
The worst thing someone could say to me is “Don’t you look smart?”. I wear suits every day. People remark on it all the time, but it’s just how I feel comfortable. I’ve got quite a few, all colours and shades. I only brought one suitcase with me to Barcelona so I have 30 here, but about 70 back in London.
The Secret of Anabelle Veritas: May 17th-20th; The Taming of the Shrew: June 21st-24th. Both at Espai Mon Teatre