Wokingham writer shares his passion for theatre

Published: 16 Aug 2013 14:301 comment

DRAMA and art can add "depth, meaning and colour" to life says one of South Hill Park's most prolific writers.

Wilde writer: Director, writer and producer Bart Lee outside the Wilde Theatre at South Hill Park.

Bart Lee has been involved with more than 50 productions of all shapes and sizes at the Birch Hill arts centre since he became its theatre practitioner/writer-in-residence 15 years ago.

The 36-year-old, who lives in Wokingham, first pursued his theatrical passions when he got into drama school at the age of 18.

He told the News: "I wanted to do a straight acting course. Lots of friends went travelling the world but it was clear to me that I wanted to study.

"What I love about it is the capacity for drama or art of any sort to change people's lives. I don't mean that in a wishy-washy sense but in that art can add meaning, depth and colour to life."

Once he had finished his time at drama school the dad-of-one launched a theatre company with a group of friends, which attracted the attentions of Arts Council England.

As a result he received funding for new writing, which included the opportunity to work with a Dramaturg - an established professional theatre practitioner - followed by a placement with John Fox at Lantern House in Ulveston, home of the Welfare State theatre company.

Although he performed as part of a community company at South Hill Park (SHP) as a child, the first show he directed there was Bouncers by John Godber - followed by several Shakespeare performances.

"I think Shakespeare is absolutely brilliant," he said. "I have been lucky enough to direct productions of Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, Taming Of The Shrew, Midsummer Night's Dream, All's Well That Ends Well and Richard III. I hope I get to direct more as I learn from him every time, without fail."

A lover of comedy, Mr Lee regularly writes and directs the Wilde Theatre's Christmas shows.

He added: "I always aim to keep the pantos fresh, slick and fun. It's great being part of a successful team at SHP. I just really want families to enjoy themselves and to celebrate creativity.

"Snow White is this year's show; the biggest challenge is feeling Christmassy at Easter when the creative process starts!

"Each year the shows grow and grow - this year looks set to be the most fun yet."

He said preparations for the show are well under way - the script and songs are written and rehearsals for the junior chorus start in September.

But Mr Lee confessed his favourite show to write, direct and produce has a much more sinister nature - ghost story Norfolk's Rose.

It was first performed in the Studio Theatre more than 10 years ago before transferring to the Wilde Theatre, then touring nationally.

"You never know what's going to happen," he said. "It's very funny but also scares the living daylights out of the audience. It was also an original, new play and to break one of those onto the drama scene is a real challenge."

Mr Lee's next play will be a re-telling of Antigone, created with help from the Found Space Theatre Company. It will take place from November 6-9 in the Bracknell Gallery at SHP and combines performing and visual arts in one show.

For more information, see www.bartleetheatre.co.uk

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