Andrew Jarvis

Conversation with Andrew Jarvis                             



Based on notes taken at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham – 2 April 2014. Andrew was just off stage having played the very demanding role of Moss in Morris Panych’s The Dishwashers (With fellow cast members – David Essex, Rik Makarem and Jared Garfield.)  CTF is grateful to Andrew for being so generous with his time.

Links with theatre in Chesterfield

Andrew came into theatre because drama was an area of enjoyment and success at school. He thinks acting is in the blood as his dad did it. During his school days Andrew realised that he was good at acting and this was an area with potential for later employment. This led to him gaining voluntary part time work at the Pomegranate (then known as The Civic Theatre). Early work included helping his dad to learn his lines for appearances in productions staged by the Chesterfield Operatic Society. Andrew first went on stage himself in Pantomime in the early 1960s. In 1968 he was the back end of a cow; the rest of the beast being Greg (Gregory de Polney – who in later years taught at RADA). He enjoyed his time at the Civic doing anything and everything asked of him. He remembers as a general stage hand doing jobs such as scenery repairs, untangling old hemp hoist ropes, and many tasks at the side and rear of the stage to set scenes. He helped paint many flats. “For all staff there was a constant smell of paint as the set for next week was being painted whilst this week’s production was in action.” He remembers fondly ‘Edna’ the tea/coffee lady – “along with an image of her with the big pots at Saturday morning rehearsals – she is what you might call ‘an institution’.” He also gained many insights into tricks within the trade such as lemonade and a bicycle pump serving as the pop and fizz of champagne.

Andrew’s first real on stage opportunity came at the Civic. Roger Adamson needed to attend a wedding so Andrew learned the part and the required stage movements. “For one day I became Venning in The Year’s Between.” {The Year’s Between by Daphne Du Maurier. Directed at the Civic Theatre by Francois Landry.}

Civic folk remembered

Colin McIntyre was much admired by Andrew. He became Colin’s assistant, most particularly for making the notes of observation and changes Colin insisted on once his eagle eye took account of performances at rehearsals.        

Derek Coleman got Andrew his first job as an Assistant Stage Manager. He wrote a good reference for him, citing his dedicated work at the Civic. So in 1969, Andrew went as ASM to the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester.

Jean Lynham was one of the stage managers during Andrew’s work at the Civic. She came to Chesterfield from work in Birmingham and later moved to Barrow.

Jean Birkumshaw was a stage designer who gave professional knowledge to Andrew. She moved to London where her later credits included lighting the first production of Hair, after theatre censorship by the Lord Chamberlain had been lifted.

Andrew remembers many of the Civic actors who went on to stage, TV and film credits. The cast in his memory includes: Roger Adamson, Michael Behr, John Challis, Fred Curtis, Gregory de Polnay, Roger Foss, Paul Greenwood, Peter Harlowe, Roger Hume, Hugh Janes, Vivienne Johnson, John Linares, Terry O’Sullivan, Zibba Mays, Christopher Owen, David (Les) Richardson, Pamela Salem, Patricia Samuels, Geoffrey Smith, Warren Smith and Chris Winnera. In particular, he remembers Paul Greenwood as being very popular. “He had quite a large ‘groupie’ following at the stage door.” “I bumped into him again in America in 1994.”  Roger Fosse went into writing, including publishing a well-received book on ‘Farce’. He now earns his living as a theatre critic.

Andrew’s later career

Andrew spent many years in different Theatre Companies. He has played many well- known venues including the National Theatre, the Lyric Theatre, the Donmar Warehouse, the Bristol Old Vic, the Crucible in Sheffield and the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. His performances have spanned the continuum from Shakespearean roles through high drama and suspense to farce and pantomime. He spent eight years with the English Shakespeare Company.

He has been involved in actor training for over 20 years as a teacher and director. He was for three years Head of Postgraduate Performance courses at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.  

Andrew recalls enthusiastically and fondly his early theatre links with Chesterfield. His voluntary work at the Civic and his later ‘by chance’ opportunities on stage reinforced his desire to become an actor, director and teacher of theatre arts. He welcomes the actions being taken by CTF to document the long-standing history of the theatre and the role it has played in promoting live drama.