Page 3 Profile: Samuel West, actor and director

 

He looks every inch the professional actor. Does he come from good stock?

Well since you ask, his mother is Prunella Scales - better known as Sybil from Fawlty Towers - and his father is Timothy West, another actor. But 46-year-old Samuel has built his own successful career as an actor and director. But it's not a new production which has made people sit up and take notice - he has called on the public to enact sit-ins in a desperate attempt to save British theatres facing closure. A very civilised version of the "Occupy" movement, if you like.

That's a bit radical isn't it?

I wouldn't be quite so surprised. West was a member of the Socialist Workers Party while he was at Oxford University and is also on the Council of the trade union Equity, which represents performers and "creative practitioners" in the entertainment industry. While he has admitted that his political stance has mellowed since his student days, it would seem that certain issues can still stir his passions. In previously unreported comments to the annual arts, learning and technology conference Shift Happens, the actor said: "I call for sit-ins; we should occupy those buildings threatened with demolition, and those working theatres threatened with closure."

So what brought on this revolutionary feeling?

West's call for the masses to invoke the spirit of the Occupy movement appears to have been sparked by the publication of the annual Buildings at Risk register by the Theatres Trust, which pointed to 49 threatened buildings without statutory protection. "The pendulum is swinging away," he said. "All we can do is be part of the movement to stop it quicker than it would otherwise stop, and make it come back quicker than it would otherwise come back." Quite the call to arms.

Did he say anything else controversial?

Actually, yes. He railed against a lack of funding for the arts, blaming the industry's financial problems on a failure to convince people it was worth saving. "The problem is we haven't persuaded the electorate. There's still a lot of that 'poncey artist living off the state' mentality. What we need is to get punters in," he said.

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