Belfast Telegraph

My passion

Curtain lifts on BBC journalist's love of acting up backstage

MARK CARRUTHERS, a voice of authority behind the microphone and in front of the cameras on BBC Northern Ireland news programmes, focuses on his passion _ for theatre.

MARK CARRUTHERS, a voice of authority behind the microphone and in front of the cameras on BBC Northern Ireland news programmes, focuses on his passion _ for theatre.

And the leading journalist and presenter reveals he really is just a frustrated actor at heart ...

'Theatre is something which has always been part of my life.

'My earliest memory is when I was about 18 months old or so seeing Iolanthe, the Gilbert and Sullivan show, at the Guildhall in Derry.

'I really do have memories of the scenery, of people dressed up and of going back stage after the show. That would have been early in 1967. I have checked some of the details and I'm pretty sure it's right.

'That experience obviously made a big impression and my love of theatre went from there.

'I did loads of stuff when I was at primary school. When I was at Coleraine Inst I started very seriously taking part.

'At that time, the Riverside Theatre in Coleraine was just taking off and I started geting involved there.

'They did Oliver in 1978 and I played Oliver. James Nesbitt _ who's currently starring in Cold Feet on TV _ was The Dodger.

'He lives in London now but we are still friendly and always meet up for a chat when we can.

'At Queen's, I was involved in the drama society and had a whale of a time.

'It was there I met Tim Loane, who has, of course, gone on to great things, and out of that came Tinderbox Theatre Company, which I was involved with from the beginning.

'It's now celebrating its 10th birthday and a highlight has been the Tinderbox/Field Day production of Northern Star. It's so exciting to be working with that. For us to have a show directed by Stephen Rea is fantastic. You couldn't get a seat for it during the four-week run. I am very, very proud of it.

'I love my involvement with the theatre, the day to day running of a theatre company, but not on stage.

'I took a different route _ but I'm a frustrated actor, and that's a fact. If there was anything else I was going to do it would be acting.

'I suppose in a way, what I do now in broadcasting satisfies my desire to perform and yet still keeps the involvement with theatre _ the best of both worlds.

'I love the magic of theatre. Videos are great, TV is great, but they are no substitute for seeing the living thing and being in an auditorium. It's fantastic.

'I have kids now and they can sit through productions with no problems. They are just as passionate about theatre as I was as a child.

'As you grow up you develop your taste. I like things on the edge, avant-garde. Nowadays I'm less interested in theatre for entertainment. I like experimental theatre which is challenging to watch.

'Theatre is like holding a mirror up and seeing life reflected back at us _ that's what good theatre is.

'I believe we should go to the theatre and feel uncomfortable. It should challenge you, make you question.

'Sometimes the sense of passion and just coming out of a performance leaves me feeling shattered at the end of it.

'Maybe that's not everyone's idea of a good night out, but it's that challenge thing again.

'One of my greatest experiences was seeing Anthony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre with Dame Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins. I was standing for 31/2 hours at the back, completely transfixed, it was so electrifying.

'Another amazing experience was when I was in Romania a short time after the Revolution and watched Hamlet in Romanian. It lasted five hours. People were packed in to see it, practically hanging from the rafters.

'The guy playing Hamlet was the vice-president and only a short time before was involved in the Revolution. It was the first performance since the end of the Causesceau regime and there were obviously all sorts of parellels. It was an incredible experience.

'Those of us with an evangelical streak and who are passionate about theatre want to spread the word about good theatre.

'As for performing on stage now, I can't really see it happening. It's great to be involved backstage and it's nice being able to look back with rose-tinted spectacles at all those productions that went well.

'Besides, these days I have an autocue to keep me right in my work _ you don't get that on stage.'

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