Where I Started

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The Independent Culture
I started going to the Oval House Theatre Club in 1972, when I was 16, after my mate Jim Sweeney persuaded me to come along. It used to have weight-lifting, then they gradually moved the more theatrical types in. I basically did nothing for a year, because I was so gobsmacked by the place. It was very small, a main theatre with no more than 200 seats, and an even smaller studio, but it was crawling with hippies and very, very gorgeous women.

After a year sitting around I was thrust into the limelight as Woyzeck. I had messed up on the technical side - I used to knock the projector so violently that people used to stare up into the lighting box wondering what was going on. Being a fringe venue it had a very small budget, but like comedy clubs now, people were slowly becoming aware that there was a lot of talent around. I remember Tim Roth wandered in a lot, bumming fags and drinks off people. There was a canteen but everyone used to go over the road to The Surrey Tavern (071-587 1186).

It was through seeing comedy at the Oval that I decided that's what I wanted to do. Jim and I used to do an end-of-year revue show and decided to form our own company, the Wee-Wee Removers. After touring in 1981, we were whisked off to telly. I wander back from time to time, mainly to do benefits, but I don't recognise the faces anymore - you can never go back really.

Steve Steen appears with Jim Sweeney in 'Betrayal' at BAC, Lavender Hill, London SW11 (071-223 2223) to 29 May. Carnival event at the Oval House Theatre, Kennington Oval, London SE11 (071-582 7680) 4 Jun

(Photograph omitted)