Be brave and go for it

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IN 1997 a Dacorum borough arts grant meant 18 year old Stephen Sobel could follow his dream of becoming an actor.

In 2011 he’s back in Hemel with his own theatre company and a brand new production which opens at the Old Town Hall Theatre next Tuesday.

Not bad for a boy with dyslexia who, by his own admission, was not particularly academic.

Dacorum’s funding enabled Stephen to take up the offer of a place on a three year acting course at The Academy Of Live And Recorded Arts in London - alumni include the award-winning comedian Miranda Hart and Mistresses’ star Sarah Parish.

While there he was chosen to represent the school in the William Poole Festival at The Globe and at the Carlton Hobbs BBC radio award, quite an accolade and a fantastic learning experience for someone whose dyslexia makes reading out loud challenging.

Since graduating in 2001 Stephen’s appeared in lots of theatre and film productions, often working with innovative theatre company, Theatre Lab, and last year was cast in a film that was nominated for Best British Short at the London Raindance Festival.

But he’s always hankered after his own company and has now taken the plunge.

He says: “I guess I’m a little bit of a control freak.

“I’d always be in a production going, yes it’s good but, what if?”

All In Theatre creates accessible, sensitive and detailed theatre that, first and foremost, entertains.

The team, who are - Stephen, his wife - Kathryn Duffy, Daniel Lawson and Mark Curtis believe that the escapism theatre provides is fundamentally important in day-to-day life.  In these recession hit, dark times, we all need a bit of light.

The company will also be holding workshops at local schools and colleges in clowning, devising, and working with text.

An advocate of the art of clowning, Stephen recently spent time in Paris at internationally-renowned clown and acting teacher Philippe Gaulier’s theatre school - a hugely empowering and confidence-building experience he’d like to pass on to others. Back on home turf, Stephen is on the next stage of a journey that started back in 1997. But life could have been very different if he’d not received that initial help from Dacorum. So what does he think about the cuts facing the industry at the moment?

He says: “It’s terrifying, and the real fear is that the money taken out now will never be put back.

“It’s such a fragile industry and it was just finding its feet - people were getting funding and putting on great pieces - the cuts are threatening to destroy the whole industry.

“The education I received from the theatre changed my life I hope others continue to get that opportunity.”

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