I was lucky enough to see The Ocean at the End of the Lane at The Royal in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. I since have had the pleasure of speaking with one of its stars Trevor Fox.
He is one of five children, two older brothers and a sister, his father was in the merchant navy and his mother was a nurse. Born in Wallsend, moving to Walker where he attended the Benfield School, his drama teacher Chris Heckles had a big influence on him. She introduced him and many others to the world of theatre, encouraging them to join local youth theatres. He ended up in a Wallsend group, where a whole generation came through, a generation now making up a large part of local known talent.
He went on, with others, to do a Community Theatre Arts course, when there were grants available—the good old days! He began working in community theatre, for companies like Bruvvers, thinking that was where his career would be. As he said, there was a positive plethora of small theatre companies then and not loads of actors; now the situation is reversed: few companies, thousands of actors.
Max Roberts at Live, whom Trevor had met in his work, was looking to cast a part in Your Home in the West by Rod Wooden and Trevor won the part. While not his first job, that part changed the direction of his career and his life nearly 30 years ago. The play went on to tour, where Trevor was seen by many and secured more work on the back of it. He then worked regularly, also doing TV. In 2004, he was in Toast by Richard Bean at Live. He played alongside Chris Connel and David Nellist with whom he had gone to Benfield School, and another local actor, Gez Casey—sound familiar?
He was in Billy Elliot when offered an understudies part in Pitman Painters. Everyone thought he was mad to give up the principal part in one of the biggest shows in the West End. When he had seen it at Live he had said to the director, Max Roberts that he had to be in that play and to the writer, Lee Hall, who had been in the year below him at school, "I’ve got to do this show somehow. This is the play I’ve been waiting to do all my life and it sums up everything I feel about art and class and politics and theatre." He told them that in any form, "I wanted to be part of it." Chris Connel took ill during the run and Trevor stepped in. To him, the part of Oliver Kilbourn was the Geordie equivalent of Hamlet.
While he has a tremendous, full, varied career, two periods do stand out in his mind, which he relishes. Firstly, working at Live in Newcastle, where there was a vast amount of amazing work being performed alongside many local talented actors; secondly, being at The Globe in London for three continuous years and having a proper introduction to Shakespeare. Apparently, they only did some Shakespeare work one day on his course and he missed it, so working at the Globe was a revelation. Acting is a hard profession at any time, so dreams are often just that, dreams. However, if Trevor could choose, he would just adore to work back in the North East again, if only someone would ask. He also has a love of Shakespeare and relishes the thought of doing more, so if anyone from the RSC is reading this, he would love to hear from you.
Talking of Shakespeare, he once played the fool opposite Jonathon Pryce’s King Lear in London at The Almeida and compared it to having played in the third division all his life and suddenly was playing opposite Wayne Rooney. He said some people are just born with that natural genius, making everything they say sound so natural; his Shakespeare sounded like him just talking, even when he didn’t really understand what it meant himself. Trevor feels that the Geordie accent is made for Shakespearean text, having the same natural cadence and rhythm. He also mentioned Mark Rylance—what am I saying, “mentioned”!—and extolled his acting process, with which I thoroughly concur. I have been lucky enough to see Rylance several times, but one stands out: his Cleopatra at The Globe in an all-male cast. Near the front, his presence on stage was electric, apart from delivering the most tantalising sexy portrayal of Cleopatra I have seen.
He spoke warmly of Ken Loach and how he remembers an unsuccessful audition for a part in Riff Raff years ago, but did succeed recently in Loach’s latest film, The Old Oak, which he actually saw at the Cannes Festival. He is very derogatory about his own ability, feeling he has a very limited skillset, saying he is more about depth not range—he can’t have seen himself on stage! While he thinks he has been very lucky to have worked very steadily, it is not just luck that has got him work; ability and talent have a lot to do with it, and not just in my opinion. It is not easy to be natural and believable on stage and not ‘act’, just do it, and Mr Fox does.
I asked him about the play he is in now and how that came about. He was at the London National in My Brilliant Friend when he first heard about it. Everybody was saying, you must see this, some even having seen it more than once, but he couldn’t, being in a play himself. Later when he was in The Jungle, which was set to tour internationally, it was cancelled due to COVID. When it was rescheduled, he got offered a part in it. He knew Katy Rudd the director, was ready to make a change from The Jungle so accepted the part and is very glad he did.
As he said, it is a play about so many things, life, loss, dreams, death, reality, growing up, everything really. He also likes the fact it leaves you to make your own decisions on how you react to it, it does not dictate. This, he feels, is what all good art should be: there for you to react to in your own way. He thinks it is not your average piece of drama, more a gateway to theatre for those who may feel theatre is not ‘for them’; indeed a play for everyone, not just theatregoers.
He is really enjoying being in The Ocean at the End of the Lane playing the role of Dad, a part which encompasses many emotions. I understand that as it has many aspects which you can connect with, like everything is not always as it first appears, as in life. He thinks this is a play for all and a great introduction to live performance, apart from the fact you will get to see Trevor in it, so go if you get the chance.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is currently touring around the UK, returning to London's West End from 11 October to 25 November 2023 at the Noël Coward Theatre.