The actor Alan (Reggie) Perrin reflecting on when he was a student
working with Richard Negri as a director

"This year, when I was having an horrendous time working on 'His Dark Materials' at the National, I sat down in the dressing room and started to compose a letter to you about theatre in general, its purpose, why it's vital and what's missing - due mainly to those present cicumstances and how far things had come since meeting Richard. Then spring came, we moved house and I went into deep therapy in my garden to erase those last 7 months and subsequently got very busy teaching students at a drama school.

But Richard was and always has been present, hovering just above me making sure I keep hold of that integrity and 'poeticness' he taught us. I bet you can sense him on your shoulder sometimes nudging you in the right direction? I remember being very close to leaving the course on that first Christmas 24 years ago and you, as my tutor, urged me to wait because you said an interesting man was coming to teach us the following term. Well that was it. Richard had a profound effect on me in those 12 weeks and really did change the course of my life. Without meeting him I'm convinced I would not have pursued a career in acting that has been key in developing a view of the world defined by work, travel, friendships, relationships (wife and three kids), which, at the risk of sounding glib, defines the human condition that Richard managed to instill. A need to engage with all types of people and all types of experiences and to relish them in a fearless way. Not to be too intellectual but at the same time be rigorous in one's approach to the task in hand. That's Richard's legacy to me.

Of course he could be terribly enigmatic in the tutorials. One day he said to me; "You've got the sail but you haven't got the rudder!" I left scratching my head but a couple of days later the penny dropped. I also remember him crying with laughter at the antics Lawrence Noga and I got up to in that impro class with him. He sat there and couldn't speak, took his hanky out of his pocket and wiped the tears from his eyes in pure joy at what he had got us to create. Marvellous. I'm sad I never got to see him again before he died but I'm sure he knew the "job" he had done on me at the time, at that particular place, and no more needed to be said. He also knew acting was a precarious choice for me but had a curious, two pronged way of going about it. "I believe if it's meant to happen it will happen." He said. But he also said. "You have to be incredibly tenacious and stick to it." And he was right.

When things went wrong as they sometimes did in the shows he directed me in, he never got upset, but always turned them round and looked for the positive in them. Searching for the unexpected poetic moment that occured out of the ether that was a plus, never a minus. Richard was a joyful man. He really was a guru."

December 2005, writing to David Burrows

Reg Perrin in shows at Wimbledon

The Cocktail Party (TS Eliot)
Picnic on a Battlefield (Arrabal)
The Chairs (Ionesco)


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