“I hadn’t done any acting since A level drama, but I’d heard about the open auditions for the play Quills through a friend. I arrived out of breath at the Globe in Topsham – having first gone to the Globe in Exeter I had to race across town to get where I was supposed to be. To my surprise I got the part of the tortured priest, the Abbe de Coulmier.
“At this point I was on the phone and computer all day working a desk job at the council. It wasn’t good for me physically or mentally” says Mike. “I got so sick of being on the phone. It was hard to pick up and speak to even friends and family in the evenings.
“The friends I made doing Quills turned into collaborators on other theatre projects and I was working with a few local companies doing a range of work. I never had a lot of expectations regarding performing, but I thought, I like doing this, so I kept at it although it was always a juggling act with other jobs.
“In March 2020 I was deep into rehearsals for Dr Dracula with Four of Swords theatre. We had been working on the show for two solid weeks when it became apparent that the pandemic was going to shut it down.
“The company decided to film what they could of the show at the intended venue in Bristol, but with other countries going into lockdown and living with people who were isolating, I was faced with a difficult decision.
“I pulled out of the filming— in rehearsals if one person gets sick everyone does! That play and others planned and in pre-production for the following months, were all cancelled. The cinema I was working for closed and everything stable seemed to be pulled from under my feet.
“Due to my self-employment and shift work the government support I received was minimal. A good friend of mine who works at a nearby organic farm told me there was a space for a volunteer there.
“I arrived on the farm on a Friday evening, a few days before lockdown, and was given the key to a small arrow-head shaped wooden cabin containing a bed, wood burner and a couple of bits of furniture. I felt very lucky to be in wide open spaces and spent the next couple of days processing the sudden changes that had just taken place,” says Mike, his voice as calm as a windless lake.
“Since then I’ve been living and working on the farm. Creatively I’ve been focussing more on music, but I do miss the adrenaline of performing; the camaraderie that you feel when working on a show is irreplaceable.
“One night performing Jekyll & Hyde I was delayed and arrived just before the show started. Everyone was in costume and getting into character, the lights were on and the smoke machine was doing its thing. I suddenly got a real impression of the world that we were creating, the world that the audience steps right into and shares with us.
“Right now I don’t know what the future holds but I hope that soon I can get back to creating those worlds again.”