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All the world's a stage for Hemsby's rising theatre star

PUBLISHED: 08:00 16 July 2011

Daniel Burgess, a former student on Norwich Theatre Royal's arts course, is now an assistant director at Shakespeare's Globe. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Daniel Burgess, a former student on Norwich Theatre Royal's arts course, is now an assistant director at Shakespeare's Globe. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Archant © 2011; 01603 772434

Daniel Burgess from Norfolk is a rising star of the theatre world. EMMA LEE discovers how Norwich Theatre Royal has played an important role in his career.

Daniel Burgess admits he’s always been a bit of a performer. “Apparently, as a child, I would stand for hours on a chair and do Fozzie Bear impressions and insist on people clapping,” he laughs.

Daniel, from Hembsy, is a rising star of the theatre world – but not for his Muppet mimicry. His early love of performing turned into a love of theatre. And now, aged just 26, he is assistant director of the renowned Globe Theatre’s touring production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

He meets me at Norwich Theatre Royal – a place which, he explains, has been extremely important to him over the years. “One of the first musicals I saw was Return to the Forbidden Planet here at the Theatre Royal,” he says.

As an aspiring young actor he joined the Theatre Royal’s arts course, led by David Lambert. And he credits David with giving him the inspiration and guidance to set him on the path to turning a passion into a profession.

One of the crucial things that the arts course does is give youngsters the chance to put on a show and perform in a professional theatre.

“I think that the summer shows that David does here are a great opportunity for young people,” he says.

Daniel was just 16 when he directed his first pantomime – the Hemsby Harlequins’ Dick Whittington.

Daniel took a couple of years out between school and university. As well as his day job, which was a Norfolk rite of passage, he did as much theatre work experience as he could, persuading David Lambert to put on extra plays. “I did a stint at Norwich Union – if you grow up in the area you should at least walk through the doors,” he says.

Daniel won a place on a course at Middlesex University – it was another great influence on his career. The course included some time in America, where he discovered some exciting writing.

“They gave you the opportunity to try a real wide range of different skills,” he says. “I quite quickly realised that there was something about directing that I completely loved.” He honed his craft at the Finborough Theatre in London and maintained his links with Norwich Theatre Royal.

He’s been involved with the Actors Company, which specialises in modern drama, and directed The Pillowman, and teaches on the arts course. It was after, in his words “writing lots of letters”, that Daniel was invited to work at the Globe.

The theatre is a reconstruction of the open-air playhouse, first built in 1599, where Shakespeare worked and for which he wrote many of his greatest plays.

This summer the Globe is taking one of the Bard’s favourite comedies, As You Like It, on tour, including a recent stint in Bungay.

Directed by James Dacre, it’s performed on an Elizabethan-style stage, by a small troupe of eight travelling players, many of whom play multiple parts and provide the music. It has a bit of everything – romance, cross-dressing, satire and slapstick.

It tells the story of Rosalind (Jo Herbert), the daughter of a banished duke, who falls in love with Orlando (Gunnar Cauthery) at a wrestling match.

Jealous of her popularity, her uncle banishes her from court.

Disguised as a boy, she seeks out her father and his friends in the Forest of Arden.

There she meets Orlando again and, disguised as a young man, counsels him in the art of love.

Daniel describes working for the Globe as a “fantastic” experience.

Alongside that, Daniel is associate director of this summer’s arts course show, Dorothy and the Princess of Oz.

The new musical, written by David Lambert, is based on characters created by L Frank Baum and is set a year after Dorothy’s first visit to Oz.

“Working with young people is immensely rewarding,” he says. “If theatre, in its current state, is to survive, you need to be inspiring the generations that will keep it going in the future.”

If all the world’s a stage, then Daniel is certainly playing his part.

Dorothy and the Princess of Oz is at Norwich Theatre Royal from July 27 to 30. Call the box office on 01603 630000.

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