A primary school teacher introduced me to theater.
It was really her love and so she was sharing her love, which is an admirable thing in a teacher. It was from an English teacher in secondary school that I learned about rigor and applying myself.
But, the teacher who must go down as the person who changed my life was ES Davis. Ewan was his first name, I’m pretty sure.
From bad boy to Barry the Bear
Mr. Davis was there for me at a critical time in my life. I had been suspended from Cynffig Comprehensive School in South Wales for organizing parties and bringing alcohol into the school. Academically, I was an advanced student, doing math, physics and chemistry – subjects I didn’t care about. I always had an interest in the arts, but had never been given an opportunity to pursue it as it was deemed too risky. And, if you had some talent in science it was seen as negligent to throw it away.
Mr. Davis was vice principal at Cynffig. I remember being called into his office and him saying, “I am going to try to understand you, rather than focus on the problem.” Before the end of our meeting, he told me that he had some friends who were determined to transform a local fairground into a theme park. He soon introduced me to John Wardley, the mastermind behind several well-known theme parks. I got a job with this man, who was very much an entertainer and a showman. The job gave me a chance to dress up as Barry the Bear and meet people.
That year instead of taking my college exams that I'd been preparing for 2 years to take, I applied to drama school. The following year I went to Guildford School of Acting.
I first met Mr. Davis at my school which was in a problem area with lots of high-density housing developments. The first half of my childhood was spent living in public housing and then, for the second half, I lived in a house built by my dad, who was a clerk. Nobody around me had any experience of acting as a profession, only a sense of famous people and stars. I’m now involved in Wac Arts, an organisation that provides engaging performing arts programs for young people who often come from challenging backgrounds themselves.
He opened a door for me
Mr. Davis taught me Latin for two years from when I was 14. He was flamboyant and enthusiastic in his teaching style and used to say to his class: “Let’s go and sit on the grass.” If you drifted off during the lesson and looked at nature, that would have been worthwhile in his books.
He wasn’t like any other teacher in the school. They were much more regular. If you were good at rugby and represented the school, then you were very popular with the other teachers because you brought honor to the school and that meant more than anything to them. But Mr. Davis didn’t care about that. He was original. In fact, he was a bit of a joke figure to the students because he wasn’t as harsh as the other teachers. We even had a nickname for him – “Snooks” – because he looked like he had snooker [billiard] balls rustling around inside his cheeks and his head was shaped a bit like a snooker ball.
But, Mr. Davis opened a door for me, a door I wanted to go through. Without him I don’t think I would have become an actor. What he did was above and beyond the call of duty. He didn’t see me as a bad person, but someone who had lost his way.
In 1984, after I made my television debut in The Mimosa Boys, a film about the Falklands War, Mr. Davis wrote me a very short letter, which was full of joy. He wrote that he was “absolutely thrilled” to see me on TV and “guilty of a little pride”.
Owen Teale was speaking to Adeline Iziren at the main London office of Bloomberg for a charity event where he raised funds for Wac Arts. The event took place on November 4, 2015.
Owen Teale Profile:
Born: May 20, 1961
Education: Cynffig Comprehensive School, Bridgend, South Wales
Career: Actor who is well known for his role as Ser Alliser Thorne in the successful TV fantasy series Game of Thrones. He has also appeared in the British drama series Ballykissangel, Murphy’s Law and River. In 1997, he won a Tony Award for his performance in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.
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