Veteran thespian casting around for new roles after 40 years
AUTHOR Penny Miller re-joins the Globe editorial team this weekend as our Portsmouth-based correspondent having moved from Gosport to live in Southsea. Her first ‘marking’ on the paper’s behalf was to interview actor Tim Lowe who also – when he can get a word in edgeways – happens to be a talented ventriloquist…
TALENTED local thespian Tim Lowe is still treading the boards after more than four decades and entertaining audiences around the Solent with his delightfully original ventriloquism act.
Having studied at the Guildford School of Acting from 1978 to 1981, he had a classical training in drama, singing, dancing, mime, improvisation and stage fighting.
The training was for work in theatre, television and films – mainly on the stage and in repertory. The trouble is, reputable repertory hardly exists and has declined steadily from the late 1970s.
In days gone by, repertory theatre was where many actors would learn their craft as they had to do a wide variety of characters and accents in a season.
As a character actor, Tim sought work wherever possible. First Job was with an illusionist called Zee in 1982. Zee had previously appeared in the West End among other prestigious venues and on TV’s ‘Starburst’ variety show. Tim was one of two onstage male assistants that assisted Zee with his illusions, one of which was making Angie his female star disappear and seemingly turn into a leopard. Tim got the job because he could move OK on stage but mainly because he looked OK was the right specified height and build to fit the existing costume.
Tim performed on the Isle of Wight at the Sandown Pavilion Theatre in Zee’s Summer Magic and the Tommy Cooper Show. Tim joined Zee when he was asked to take his act to Miami, Florida, at the Sheraton Bal Harbour Hotel.
Then Tim got a job in Birmingham, joining a travelling theatrical troupe touring schools with a play about Thomas Hardy. This led on to working with the Big Brum Theatre company and a year’s contract using his character acting skills, researching, devising and performing in schools. For that, he had to carry out research into World War Two and the earlier Victorian period.
Other work then followed, with performances in Shakespeare, in particular Launce in the Two Gentleman of Verona – for which Tim received critical acclaim in the Daily Mail – and a Shakespeare open air company touring National Trust properties.
More theatre and other performance work resulted in work at the Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson, where Tim remained for 12 years performing set scripts, mainly using eyewitness accounts and various period-correct costumes,
This was to help tell the stories behind the artillery collection. Some of these scripts had local interest such as: ‘The Cocklshell Heroes’ using the words of Bill Sparks. Bill and Blondie Hasler were the two remaining survivors of Operation Frankton, the daring raid on the harbour at Bordeaux by canoe. They trained in Southsea.
For a re-enactment of the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, Tim played a gunner’s mate. HMS Victory is a well known visitor attraction in Portsmouth Dockyard and Admiral Lord Nelson embarked from Southsea.
During the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940, many ‘little ships’ sailed from the Portsmouth area to take part in that incredible rescue. Tim used words of the surviving soldiers to tell the story of the retreat and rescue. Tim and his colleague Geoff re-enacted the last duel that took place between two Englishman which took place on Browndown, Gosport, in May 1945. Tim performed many different pieces in that 12-year period. This work involved a lot of research as the public could ask questions afterwards.
Since 2011, Tim has been working as a freelance, playing several characters at Marwell Zoo; with the New Apollo Theatre Company in Portsmouth; at the Royal Marines Museum and Salisbury Museum, recently taking on the persona of Thomas Hardy for its ‘Festival of Archaeology’. He occasionally acts for murder mysteries and role play as well.
Tim started to learn ventriloquism when he was 50 and has been a firm favourite in care homes and dinner functions. His most popular characters are Uncle Len a kindly old Hampshire gentleman and Elsie, a 78-year-old grandma originally from Lancashire.
Tim can be contacted for bookings by email at email@example.com.
PICTURED: Tim Lowe shown on the right as he appeared in Zee’s Summer Magic, Isle of Wight, 1982. With him from left are John Moule; Angie; Zee; Larry Grayson; Diane Lee, of Peters and Lee; and Tony Maiden, New Faces winner and child actor from the Black Beauty TV series.