Many people will know Paul Clayton from his TV work in Peep Show, Doctors, Hollyoaks, and for popping up in Holby City and the best of British drama, writes Michael Holland…
Born in Yorkshire and brought up in a mining village by adoptive parents, Paul enjoyed school and thrived there. ‘I started doing plays in infant school, which we rehearsed in the playground, and were a full-time part of my education,’ he recalls with pleasure.
Aged 11 he went to a very traditional grammar school who wanted him to go to Oxbridge, but he preferred drama school. He knew then that ‘acting came first and foremost’.
He says, ‘I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else. At school when we were making career choices and teachers laughed at me because I wanted to be an actor, I did dally with the idea of journalism and law, but I was absolutely settled on going to drama school. My school gave up on me then.’
Paul was offered a place at RADA but turned down when he applied for a scholarship: ‘My parents couldn’t afford it, but with two A-levels I got a grant to go to Manchester Polytechnic School of Theatre.
‘That was lucky because ‘Manchester turned out to be a godsend as I went straight to the Royal Exchange Theatre after.’
Fortunately his parents were very supportive of his acting dreams: ‘What I wanted to do was entirely out of their scope and understanding. Because they ran shops it was rare that they could get away together to see me in the theatre, so mum came to a lot of shows that I was in and I remember dad coming to see me in Nottingham in a Christmas show and bringing lots of underprivileged kids from the village… Even though I was dressed up playing the wicked Queen Brenda, he was very proud in a surly sort of Yorkshire miner way.’
There have been many highlights in Paul Clayton’s career: ‘Working with the Royal Shakespeare company for four years; joining the Casts of Peep Show and Him and Her; walking down Coronation street when I joined the cast, and watching the young actors I have mentored become successful.’ Achievements to make anyone proud.
Lowlights? ‘A nine month period of unemployment.’
But alongside a distinguished career Paul has has wrote for many years: ‘I’ve always loved to write and started writing for The Stage newspaper about eight years ago; I enjoy trying to be funny in 500 words… From that I was asked to write my first book about actors working in the corporate sector, and then wrote a guide for people coming into the profession as to how to survive as an actor: “The Working Actor” has been a success and lots of young actors have told me that it’s really helped them get a grasp on how to cope with living the life of an actor, day after day, even if you’re not acting.’
Do you prefer writing to acting? ‘I do love acting but I get bored very quickly – I’m not sure I could do a long West End run. But I do love the moment when they say action and the adrenaline. I love thinking up stories, and working out what I can do to the characters, but it is rather lonely, so it’s best at the end of the day that I have somebody to tell what I’ve done.’
What books have you written? ‘Two acting books, but because I like crime and thrillers I was determined to write a novel. “The Punishment” is my first and, like the fear of a play’s opening night, when the book was published, knowing that people could just pick it up and read it was really quite frightening. I’m so thrilled the feedback has been good; it’s not a Booker Prize winner – It’s a real good page turner.’
The author claims the inspiration for The Punishment is ‘based on something that happened to me as a young actor, but which bits are true, well, I’d rather not say…’.
The Yorkshire lad has now been living in SE London for 40 years so is one of us, and with most TV and film productions cancelled for the unforeseeable future he will be using this extra time to make a start on his new book.
He will also be the first writer in a new online venture, The Virtual Book Club, to talk about The Punishment and answer questions from readers.
To be a part of this new way of bringing culture into our lives while avoiding the coronavirus, email: firstname.lastname@example.org who will send you the link to be able to purchase the book (Free on Kindle Unlimited or £3.99) and an invite to Zoom Virtual Book Club.
Week 2: (Weds 15th April, 8pm) Charlie Carter will be interviewing Camberwell author Mark Baxter about his book “The Mumper”.
“The Punishment” by Paul Clayton – Out now on Amazon.