in praise of Stuart Bennett
Some people leave a mark on you. Stuart Bennett was one of those people for me. He founded the community theatre arts course at Rose Bruford College in the late 1970s which did so much to fuel the rise of a vibrant alternative theatre scene in the 80s and 90s. Stuart was one of the key movers and shakers in the Theatre-in-Education movement, with a career spanning Belgrade TIE, Cockpit TIE and others. I was auditioned by Stuart as an awkward young man in the 1980s and he saw something in me that he thought worth nurturing.
Lots of people will speak about Stuarts constant smile and his generosity. here is my story.
Long after he had left Rose Bruford I bumped into him late one afternoon on Tottenham Court Road coming out of Foyles Book Shop. He insisted that we went for a cup of tea so that he could hear everything that was going on in my world. Stuart had an insatiable curiosity and wanted to know everything. Finally we talked about him. Evidently he had spent the day in a school, I assume doing some supply work. He explained that when he had arrived early in the morning there was a van with a group of young people unloading clothes and lights and bits of wood into the hall. Recognising the scene he wandered over and asked what they were doing. One of the young people explained that they were actors and that they were performing a play in the school hall today. But not a play like he would imagine. Another actor joined them and continued that what they were doing is called Theatre in Education, or TIE. That they would be ‘in role’ and would be involving the young people in deciding what should happen. that it is a way of encouraging young people to ask questions about the world. They continued the conversation for some time with Stuart gently asking them why they thought it important and being curious about their ideas. He left thanking them for their time and saying that he thought that what they were doing had the potential to change the world. and not a word of his past…..