Advocates: Ben Kingsley

Sir Ben Kingsley never met Stephen Joseph, yet he cites him as a major influence. A four-times Oscar-nominated actor (he won the Best Actor award for his work in the 1982 film Gandhi), he is also a former member of Studio Theatre, working in Stoke-on-Trent under Peter Cheeseman during the early 1960s. In 2008 he told me about Stephen Joseph’s influence - his "ethos, his guidance, his principle of 'No Hiding Place', of accessible theatre for communities, of the arena". Kingsley recalls that most of all "we didn't cheat the audience - there was no hiding place, and there were no tricks". Recalling that "nothing was diluted", he remembers "the whole of our audience in the round being completely enthralled by what we were doing… we did some pretty strong stuff at Stoke-on-Trent". Kingsley was in the cast for the "beautiful [drama] documentary called The Staffordshire Rebels, which was based upon the history of that area… beautiful songs, and delightfully bizarre sequences, tragic sequences, sequences of great historical potency, and relevance - nationally, and to their area". Recruited initially (alongside Robert Powell) as an Acting ASM who was (in the words of playwright Alan Plater) "not yet good enough to be in plays", he wrote the music for Plater’s play A Smashing Day, travelling with its transfer to London. Soon after he was acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Kingsley’s now little-known talent for songwriting links him directly to fellow Studio Theatre graduate Alan Ayckbourn, a BBC Radio producer in the 1960’s. Kingsley recalls writing for Ayckbourn’s "monthly celebration of northern songwriters, poets - comedy sketches, relevant current affairs items… I used to write a song for them every month, for Alan, and read poetry for Alan too".

Copyright: Dr Paul Elsam.