Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Ozzie Yue, actor and musician

'I'd flick bits of paper at Paul McCartney'
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The Independent Online

Ozzie Yue, 59, has appeared in Syriana, Croupier and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and frequently on television. He played the guitar at the legendary Liverpool club The Cavern more often than The Beatles. He stars in Kensuke's Kingdom, the play based on the Michael Morpurgo children's novel, at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London until 27 January

Before I went to school, I used to speak a certain amount of Mandarin but I lost it through being with the English kids. My father was an official interpreter, and spoke around seven different Chinese dialects, as well as English. At one point, he had a café and three restaurants, but he also did a lot of work for the law courts and hospitals. Whenever there was trouble in the laundry or to do with the big ships coming into the Mersey Estuary, they'd say, "Call Jack Yue!"

I enjoyed school and did reasonably well - I was a bit of a swot. My first school was Lingham Lane Primary in Moreton, in the Wirral, and then I went to Barnston Lane Juniors, in the next road, for a couple of years. My father sold his café and bought another in the centre of Liverpool, and sent me to Skerrys College, a prep school on the top floor of the commercial college where he had learnt English, and also his sweeping, picturesque handwriting.

I took the 11-plus and moved to the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys, a grammar school that is now the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Paul McCartney and George Harrison were in the Upper School when I was in the Lower. During my first year, Paul used to go to the art class during free periods and sit opposite me. I would flick pieces of paper at him.

The Institute was great. It was quite a strict school, with quite a strict headmaster. I played rugby for the school and football for the house. I joined the school cadet force; I was a corporal and had my own platoon. One summer, we went on a six-week climbing trip in Norway: we paid £30 for the whole six weeks.

I didn't do a lot of music at school. When I was 14, the director of the local operatic society, who ate at my father's restaurant, asked if I'd like to play the Crown Prince in The King and I. It was my first foray into acting. I did a week at the Liverpool Royal Court, to rave reviews. The following year, I was in South Pacific.

I went to Upper School but didn't get as far as A-levels. I did O-levels and got three: maths, German and general science; I missed English and geography by a thread. I'd become interested in music and played guitar in a band with friends. The Institute was a breeding-ground for groups: there was Paul and George; two members of The Remo Four, managed by Brian Epstein; the piano player from Gerry and the Pacemakers; and Bill Kenwright, the theatre impresario, who also had a band.

I then went to a technical college "over the water" - Carlett Park, part of Wirral Metropolitan College. I did two courses in a year and passed them both. I became an apprentice electrician for 18 months. Our band, The Hideaways, was starting to get work and we were playing The Cavern [which later closed and was then reopened by Harold Wilson]. I'd play until 2am, and then have to get up at 6am for work. We had the dubious distinction of being the last band on stage when The Cavern closed - twice.

jonty@jonathansale.com

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