Biography

David has acted in Rep and Tours from Bolton to Birmingham and Brighton, and from Aldeburgh to Aberystwyth. He's been back to the Edinburgh Festival, and in the West End twice, the latter in the musical 'Gone With The Wind' and then in 'Lenny' - the story of Lenny Bruce. At the National Theatre in 1974 he featured as both dancer and actor in Jonathan Miller's production of The Marriage of Figaro and he also appeared in David Hare's NT Touring production of 'The Party' by Trevor Griffiths.

As well as acting, he's created projects and productions with playmakers and story tellers from all kinds of backgrounds: civil servants, teachers, priests and prisoners, actors and dancers with learning difficulties, musicians, children of all ages, and, as a poet himself, with other poets.

Early days

Before turning professional David acted at university. An early programme, from August 1961, lists the first two names in the cast as Ian McKellen and David Collins. In 1962 and 63 he was directed by Trevor Nunn as Lennox in 'Macbeth', Leonato in 'Much Ado About Nothing', and The Provost in Ibsen's 'Brand', which went to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; there he also played Georges opposite Miriam Margolyes in Jean Cocteau's 'Les Parents Terribles'.

1963 to 1969

In September 1963, following a tour of Berlin and West Germany as Richard II for the Cambridge Dryden Society, David joined the first company at The Phoenix Theatre Leicester, and made his professional debut as Snobby Price in Bernard Shaw's 'Major Barbara', and as The Volunteer in 'The Hostage' by Brendan Behan.

After six months at The Phoenix, in April 1964 he went to Birmingham to teach at King Edward's School, Aston for two years. There he directed teenagers in plays like William Saroyan's 'Sam The Highest Jumper of Them All' (a sixties musical satire) and Russell Braddon's 'Naked Island' (a first-hand account of life in a Japanese POW camp). He also worked at that time with Peter Slade, playing Billy in 'Billy Liar'. Slade was the founder of the Educational Drama Association which, with Brian Way, inspired the whole Theatre in Education movement.

From 1966 to 1969 David trained at the Rose Bruford College.

In 1969 he won the BBC Radio Drama first prize (known now as the Carleton Hobbs Award) which started his long career as a leading actor, poetry reader and narrator in radio, audio books and voiceover.

His first professional starring role, in 1969, was opposite the legendary Margaret Lockwood in a BBC Radio production by Archie Campbell of Terence Rattigan's 'Variation on a Theme'.

David's stage name...

In 1969, following Equity rules, David's burgeoning career required him to change his stage name to Geoffrey Collins.

In 1999 he was finally able to revert to publicly being David Collins again, and has been so ever since.

1970 to 1986

Repertory theatre

In the summer of 1970 David went to The Wolverhampton Grand Theatre to play Tobias in Edward Albee's 'A Delicate Balance'. From there he went to the Arts Theatre, Ipswich, on to Crewe Rep, to the Octagon in Bolton, and back to Wolverhampton, working continuously. Parts and plays included:

London theatre - West End and around London

After two years in rep David returned to London. He was cast as The Northern Deserter in the musical of 'Gone With The Wind' directed by Joe Layton and starring June Ritchie and Harve Presnell, which ran for eleven months at Drury Lane Theatre.

At the Criterion Theatre he played character roles and understudied Marty Brill as Lenny Bruce in 'Lenny', and later at the Cambridge Theatre he was Fedotik in Jonathan Miller's production of 'The Three Sisters' by Anton Chekhov.

At the National Theatre: 'The Marriage of Figaro'.

At smaller London theatres he starred in:

Theatre tours

David's British tours included:

Radio

Of many classical parts perhaps the most outstanding was Dionysus in The Bacchae by Euripides (1974), in which David led a cast of Radio 'greats' including Carleton Hobbs, Norman Shelley, Mary Wimbush, Marjorie Westbury, Malcolm Hayes and Gabriel Woolf.

He also played:

His wide range on Radio also included the World Premiere live broadcast from St John's Smith Square of the opera 'Van Diemen's Land', in which he played The Captain.

For many years he was a regular reader on 'Poetry Please' and 'Time for Verse'.

Television

David appeared in 'Death of A Princess' by Antony Thomas. This was a true and shocking story about the execution of young Saudi Arabian lovers.

He featured in several of the BBC complete Shakespeare series: 'King Lear', 'Timon of Athens' (Flaminius) and 'Antony and Cleopatra' (Dolabella); also in 'Roger Doesn't Live Here Any More' (with Jonathan Pryce), in 'The Barretts of Wimpole Street' as George, eldest brother of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Jane Lapotaire), and in the children's adventure series 'Codename Icarus'.

David also sang and played the Narrator in Donald Swann's 'The Great Glass Hive', a musical memoir of the Great Exhibition and the building of the Crystal Palace.

A career break...

In 1987 David left London. He took a career break, settling in Bristol, where he has lived ever since.

He resumed his career in 1991.

1991 to today

Show of Strength and Shakespeare At The Tobacco Factory

In 1991, David began a long association with two original and successful theatre companies: first Show of Strength (dedicated to new writing) and then, both as a Founder and an actor from its very first season, Shakespeare at The Tobacco Factory.

For Show of Strength he appeared as Melorne in 'The Golden Age' and in the world premiere of Fanny Burney's 'A Busy Day', in which he created the part of Tom Watts; both of these were directed by Alan Coveney. This was followed by another premiere, 'Rough Music' by James ilson, in which David played Brian; it was directed by Andrew Hilton, soon to become the creator and Artistic Director of Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory.

The success of Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory has become theatre legend. David's roles have included,

Radio and audio

During this period too he returned to BBC Radio, becoming for a second time a regular in dramas, poetry programmes and features. His voice was often heard on Poetry Please and Time For Verse, in Age To Age and in plays and serials from 'Dixon of Dock Green' to the epic 'Gilgamesh' in which he played a primeval forest giant, with help from BBC special effects.

His narrations of short stories for Radio include a series by Mavis Gallant, and Marina Warner's 'Out of The Burning House' - the reminiscences of a dying drag artist and panto dame.

Full length Audio Books (for Isis, Chivers and BBC Audio Books): 'The Outlandish Knight' by Richard Adams, in which David also sang 30 unaccompanied folk-songs, Julia Jarman's children's series 'The Time-Travelling Cat', Margaret Yorke's 'Admit To Murder', Neville Shute's 'Marazan'.

For Carlton/MCI Spoken Word he narrated 'Inspector Morse' audio cassettes (short-listed for the Sony Awards).

Solo shows

David has devised and performed three one-man shows.

The first, called 'It's Bad For You To Think Too Much', was highly autobiographical. The last celebrated the final ten years of Henry Nouwen, priest, lecturer and circus lover who spent the end of his life with Jean Vanier's L'Arche Community. L'Arche is an extended family of people with learning difficulties. Nouwen, gifted, vulnerable and internationally famous, identified deeply with them. Both plays were about feeling unusual, outside the mainstream. In between, from 1994 to 1999, following the same theme in a different way, David toured widely in a show called 'Outsiders'.

The script of 'Outsiders'came word for word from the Bible. The first part was the story of Ruth, from the old testament, perhaps the earliest story of a woman who gave up everything for love (of her mother-in-law). The second was St Paul's Letter to The Galatians - spoken as if Paul was in the act of dictating it to his young companion Barnabas. Paul at the time was a complete outsider; he had betrayed his Jewish faith and privileged position, was deeply distrusted by his fellow Christians, and had disgraced himself as a Roman citizen. This show was seen in Coventry Cathedral by a huge audience, in many parish churches and halls in Bristol and Somerset, in Oxford and Richmond, and twice at major conferences in Swanwick, Derbyshire.

Theatre in church has a long and radical history, overturning conventional religious clich├ęs again and again. In this tradition, Neville Boundy has written and produced his plays in churches, cathedrals and theatres all over the country: notably 'Father and Son; Son and Father' and 'Five Sides Of A Circle'. David has played the Father in three productions since 2003 and both Matthew and John in productions of 'Five Sides Of A Circle'.

Concerts

In 2004 he had the unforgettable experience of Narrating and playing the King in Walton's 'Henry V Suite'. This is a solo marathon in which one actor recreates the highlights of Shakespeare's magnificent play, with full orchestra and chorus.

The live performance in Bristol's Anglican Cathedral was conducted by Mark Lee. David has also appeared often at St George's Brandon Hill, Bristol as narrator in Christmas Children's Concerts, and other events, with Roger Huckle and The Emerald Ensemble (now The Bristol Ensemble).

More Television

In the late 90's David had the major role in HTV's 'Where's Willy?' by Catherine Johnson, who shortly afterwards hit the big time when she wrote 'Mama Mia'. 'Where's Willy' premiered on stage at the Bristol Old Vic and was then immediately filmed for television with the same cast. The story, set in the dressing room of a night club during a male stripper's performance at a rowdy hen night, was based on The Bacchae by Euripides.

David has also appeared in 'Casualty', but with no great distinction.