On the eve of Horrible Histories’ car park panto, Horrible Christmas, we talk to Neal Foster, the man behind the live shows’ partners, Birmingham Stage Company
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
The events that probably gave my career its kick start was persuading famous actors including Dustin Hoffman, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Glenn Close and Richard Dreyfuss to let me interview them live on stage in the West End and on Broadway. They did it for nothing so I could put all the money towards staging The Seagull at Birmingham Rep in 1990, which was the springboard to everything that came after.
IT’S WHAT I DO
I’m the actor/manager of Birmingham Stage Company which I created in 1992 and launched from the Old Rep. The company has been a big adventure which has taken us around the UK and to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Malta, Syria and New York. We’ve staged more than 100 productions and had a fabulous time along the way. This year has been a little different, though!
I am one of those lucky people who’s been involved in something special almost every year, so it’s hard to narrow it down. Performing in the Concert Hall of Sydney Opera House was spectacular, as is performing in the West End and on Broadway. But I’m just as happy acting at the fabulous theatre in Bridlington Spa if the audience is up for it. It’s all down to the audience in the end – if you find a good one, it doesn’t matter where.
BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED
My father was a great businessman who gave me some advice when I was a teenager. Never have a business partner, never let someone push you around and never give anyone a second chance. This last one sounded incredibly harsh, so I chose to ignore it, but then found in my professional life that whenever I did give someone a second chance it always came back to bite me. Except once – and I guess it’s those exceptions which make life interesting.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT BRUM
I was born in Birmingham, so my first impressions are difficult to remember! But my favourite thing is the Old Rep Theatre which provided me with the chance to fulfil all my dreams. It was built by Sir Barry Jackson as the first purpose-built theatre in the country and until 1971 housed Birmingham Repertory Theatre, until they moved to Broad Street. For 20 years it was used by amateur companies until I persuaded the city council to let me move my fledgling company into its walls and we never looked back.
I love reading a newspaper over a gin and tonic. I’m worried that by the time I retire all the newspapers will be online, which I is much less satisfying. I don’t even have a smart phone. I like the real world too much.