A tribute to Mike Hughes
It was 1976, Simon Barnes and I were coming out of the baker’s shop in Llandovery, when a tall man with a beard spoke: ‘So Jacky Harrison, what the hell are you doing here?’
The man was an actor, Mike Hughes, who I had first met in 1955, when we were both at drama school, the Central School of Speech and Drama. At that time Mike lived, and near starved, in the preverbial ‘garret’ – only it was a basement in Bayswater which he shared with two others, both to become significant in theatre, a drama student Zeph Gladstone, and a writer – Jeremy Kingston, whose first West End play called NO CONCERN OF MINE relates the story of these three young inhabitants of the basement room, endeavouring to find their way through the theatre and arts jungle.
In the mid 1970s Mike had moved (like us) from London to Wales, and now lived in Capel Isaac. He was to join us at the Theatre, first to act as ‘gang controller’ on the building site in our job creation scheme to rebuild the old derelict ‘Institute’ into Llandovery Theatre, and later to direct plays for us.
When the Theatre first opened in 1978, we did two new plays, both written by Simon – the first was COME IN GOD MY TIME IS UP, which I directed, and the second was a one woman play Simon wrote for me: WHERE JULIE GONE, which Mike directed – three weeks of rehearsal in the upper room of the Whitehall.
Mike was to come in and out of our lives over the next 25 years or so, directing, working technicals, making sets and props; in 1986 he even ‘performed’ in THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP as Sampson Brass, a terrifying villain!
By 1996 his work with the Council on youth projects ceased and he was back again with us, helping us to set up LAND OF COCKAIGNE, which followed the building of a bigger stage, the work funded not by the Lottery, but by the Foundation for Sport and the Arts.
Mike was a great dreamer, believing that everyone should experience and develop their gifts, he was always encouraging with young people, but could be ruthless and highly critical of poor professional performance work – not a supreme actor himself, he was, however, a superb director of actors.
Mike had been receiving dialysis for some years, but still (when he could find the energy) attended theatre and shows, fascinated and interested in all arts around him.
A friend of mine for over fifty years, his life so full of adventures, both of tragedy and comedy, ended 18 December 2012, a few days before his 79th birthday on Christmas Day.
On Thursday 3 January 2013, a group of friends met at the Angel, Llandeilo, to toast Mike on his way to the greatest of all theatre venues – the vast universe! A touching and beautiful farewell!
Jacky Harrison Barnes,
Llandovery Theatre Company.