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Thank Godber he gave up the day job...

Actor Matthew Booth performed Teechers for his GCSEs, now he will star in the play at Hull Truck Theatre under the direction of John Godber. Arts reporter Nick Ahad met him. Rehearsals are over for the morning and Matthew Booth is sitting in a smoky pub in Hull. Over in one corner his fellow actors are eating their lunch, in another is John Godber lunching with a journalist. Ever since he appeared in Teechers as a 16-year-old at Normanton High School for his GCSE in drama, Booth's life ha

"He has had so much influence on my life with all the stuff he has written," says Booth.

"Which is why it's great to be working with him again (Booth performed Seasons in the Sun with Godber at Hull Truck in 2000, playing a man based on the playwright in his younger days), although it is quite worrying when you are in rehearsals if you start messing up the lines that he has written.

"The great thing is that if there is something in the script that you don't quite get or understand, you can just ask him. I remember working with Barrie Rutter at Northern Broadsides doing Shakespeare and asking what did Shakespeare mean when he said so-and-so, Barrie would just say "I don't know, you can't dig the b*****d up and ask him" – here we've got the writer and we can just ask him."

Of the cast of Teechers, being performed at Hull Truck Theatre next week, ahead of a national tour, Booth is perhaps the most unlikely actor.

Although a familiar face on television – he played Paul Marsden in Emmerdale, Joe Ellis in The Ward, has appeared in The Royal, At Home With the Braithwaites and Coronation Street – Booth was never really destined to be an actor.

As a youngster he auditioned and won a part with the National Youth Theatre. After Normanton High School he went to college in Pontefract and from there auditioned for drama school. He won a place, but the cost of pursuing that dream was out of reach.

"I just couldn't afford to go, and I worked in a garage as a mechanic," says Booth.

It was his mother who eventually convinced him that he should pursue his first love of acting.

"She told me to write to Northern Broadsides while I was home from the National Youth Theatre one day so I did and was invited for an audition."

At the audition he was asked to read a speech made by Romeo – Broadsides was to tour the classic Shakespeare love story. In his own words, Booth "completely messed it up", so he was amazed when

he won a small part with the company, went on toured and has never looked

back.

"Broadsides was my apprenticeship, and it was great to learn the job under someone like Barrie Rutter.

When he landed his previous part with Hull Truck in 2000, Booth found someone speaking with a voice that was even more familiar in Godber.

"I went to meet John and we had a chat and we had something in common straight away, because we are from the same place and in his play Seasons in the Sun he was writing about places that I knew and recognised," says Booth.

He returns to work with Godber, celebrating his 20th year at Hull Truck, playing the drama teacher in Teechers.

People in the region recognise him as Paul Marsden, something that he does not mind, although he admits that at times it can become intrusive "when you're trying to do your shopping and someone is asking for an autograph".

But what he really enjoys being recognised for is the small role he played in an advert for a mobile telephone recently.

The advert featured David Beckham standing at a counter in a supermarket and Booth was the customer behind who tapped him on the shoulder.

A lifelong Manchester United fan, it was dream come true for Booth to be working alongside the most famous footballer on the planet and suddenly he becomes very animated while talking about filming the advert.

"It was amazing to be there with him, but I had to stay professional and not do something like ask for his autograph – although I was really tempted. At the end of filming he gave me a T-shirt anyway, so that is my memento of the day," says Booth.

He also has a story from the filming which he takes great delight in regaling any audience with – he admits that he has dined out on it a few times.

"At the end of filming David said, 'Is it all right if I get some bits'," says Booth.

"Everyone just sort of looked and he said, 'Victoria has just asked me if I can get some bits'. We were filming in a Sainsbury's that was due to open a couple of days after the filming had finished and the store was all fully stocked. So Beckham and all these minders went round while he pushed this shopping trolley.

"He got to the counter and was going to pay, but the people just said he could go.

"No-one could believe it when he asked. It was amazing."

Booth is definitely pleased that he gave up the day job.

nick.ahad@ypn.co.uk

Teechers is at Hull Truck Theatre from Thursday, September 2 until Saturday 4. It then tours nationally until returning to Hull on Monday, November 22, until Saturday, December 11. For full tour details and tickets ring 01482 323638.

 
 
 

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