Acting After Illness

20/07/2016 16:16 | Updated 02 August 2016

When I was ten I fell off a horse. Kitty, my instructor, told me to get back on. I cried and I got back on. I went on to win rosettes and trophies. You don't know much about life at ten. Kitty had taught me a life lesson.

Thirty four years later and still not knowing much about life I took acting lessons. I went to the highly respected Anna Scher Theatre School. Anna teaches through improvisation. Her method addresses conflict resolution through effective communication skills, truth, self-respect, empathy, discipline and professionalism. All of these, valuable life lessons and skills.

Roll on eight years and I am making my way as an aspiring actor. All good. And then, in early October 2014, I walked into the Royal Free Hospital and asked to see a Doctor.

I have no recollection of October and of November of that year. I had a serious neurological condition. A brain haemorrhage and the discovery of a congenital AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation).

In Steven Pressfield's new book on writing, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t , Steven tells us that stories and scripts have an "All is Lost" moment - the protagonist's darkest hour. These moments are then followed, by a way out.

For me, my "falling off a horse" moment, my moment of "conflict", my "all is lost" moment had happened. Will Gompertz describes these moments as Plan B's in his book Think Like an Artist.

I am lucky, there is no physical damage showing from the bleed in my brain. I have learnt so much about the brain and how amazing and incredible it really is. The brain is everything. It's the stars, the moon, the sky. Everything.

The brain has this wonderful potential too - neuroplasticity. My brain started adapting to meet my needs.

I had taken reading for granted. After the bleed, I found reading hard, very hard. One of the first things I did, was to take Barbara Oakley's MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) Learning How To Learn. Using the approaches she shares, I was able to pick up a script and began to read and find ways of learning lines.

Being in hospital for a long period of time makes you withdrawn. To work on my performance confidence I took RADA's over 24's Contemporary Scene Study course and progressed to their level 3 Acting course.

Stillness was a problem too. Stillness is something that every actor has to crack. For me walking into a room of strangers and standing there comfortably with myself, in stillness, was not easy. It's never easy. After the bleed, I found it hard just to stand on the spot. My GP recommended a self-referring mindfulness course run by Camden and Islington NHS Trust. I learnt to be mindful. I learnt to be present. I learnt that returning to the breath, observing the breath, gave me stillness.

I also did acting workshops and an intensive advanced acting course with Jon Campbell. I worked on a script by Peter Barnes, Acting Exercise, which I am now taking to the Camden Fringe. This will be my fist public theatre performance since the bleed in my brain.

Acting really had been my way out, my way back from my darkest hour, my getting back on the horse, my resolution of conflict.

People ask me if my experience has changed my life? Yes, of course, life events do.

I am thankful to Dr Mark Draper, Clinical Psychologist, who helped me work through my shame. It's not the situation we find ourselves in but how we respond to it that gives us our strength and our opportunities.

I am now focusing on building upon my IMDb film and television credits, and, if the right opportunities come my way, who knows, I might go on to win more rosettes and trophies - this time for acting.

Acting Exercise
will be at the Camden Fringe 2016. 8th and 9th of August at the Etcetera Theatre Camden @ 14.30pm. Tickets from the Camden Fringe Website.

Any profits from ticket sales will go to the Brain and Spinal Research Fund via Mr Francis Johnston. Consultant Neurosurgeon, at St Georges Hospital. Tooting. London.

David can be reached via his agent Sam Brown at Brown and Mills. London,