|As he prepares to swap the local streets for country lanes|
Actor, director and taxi driver Maurice Lane reminisces about the Chiswick of yesteryear
Chiswick resident Maurice Lane is currently in the throes of rehearsing for a new production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, coming to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, in August. He has acted in over twenty West End shows during his long and distinguished career, but this marks his debut as director.
Maurice has been associated with the stage throughout his working life starting out aged nine touring the variety theatres with his father who was a comedian and dame. One of his earliest memories of Chiswick is his appearance in a Variety show with his father, at the old Chiswick Empire in 1952, with Dorothy Squires topping the bill.
Maurice is a stalwart of the West-End stage performing in Fiddler on the Roof, Witches of Eastwick, Funny Girl, 42nd Street, Showboat, and Gone with the Wind. He has shared the stage with Topol, Barbara Streisand and Michael Crawford. ‘I must have been about ten when I first took to the stage at the Chiswick Empire. It was perfectly legal for children to work and tour at such a tender age back then, but it wouldn’t be permissible now.
‘I studied at the Corona Academy, a local musical theatre school, from the age of fourteen. I then taught there for over twenty years. It was based in Turnham green for over forty years before moving to Ravenscourt Park
The Corona Academy was a full time theatre school for children (training such stars as Susan George, Tony Britton, Judy & Sally Geeson and Dennis Waterman, and later opened an adult branch to run alongside it called the Corona Academy of Theatre Arts. Many famous names passed through those doors as well including Nicholas Lyndhurst, Frazer Hines and Helen Worth.
When the Corona Academy closed down in 1989, Maurice took over one of the student buildings from which he ran his own musical theatre school for four years. The Maurice Lane Academy of Theatre later merged with the London Theatre School.
For the past thirty five years Maurice has also driven a London Taxi. ‘You never know when you’re going to be out of work. There is only ever two weeks notice of a show coming off the West End and you can’t hang around for the next show to turn up because the bills still have to be paid.’
Maurice is currently directing the national tour of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, starring Dave Willetts and Shona Lindsay, in advance of its West End run.
‘I could never have had my career without the driving. My Taxi has given me a little financial security which meant I could say no to acting jobs that weren’t good enough. It’s sometimes been difficult to spin all the plates but it’s been well worth it. Today for example, I’ve been in a three-hour meeting with my choreographer, and the rest of my day has been spent driving.’
Throughout his long and successful career he has also worked extensively in film and television. On the big screen he has appeared alongside Jane Russell, Kenneth More, Angela Lansbury, Kevin Kline and Catherine Zeta-Jones. His TV credits include The Professionals, Casualty, Poirot and The Bill.
The family connections with the area run deep. As a young boy Maurice was a boarder in three houses in Wellesley Road before settling in Ellesmere Road via Sutton Court Road and Brookfield Road. ‘I’ve lived in Chiswick for over fifty years. My wife Sandy used to run the Heathfield Nursery for twenty five years before moving to Chiswick Lane to establish the Lane Nursery. She also ran the 1 o’clock club there called the Sandy Lane Play Group, for fifteen years until about seven years ago.’
‘We have lived in Ellesmere Road for the past twenty five years. We had a tough time finding a home because the properties we liked were out of our price range. But we were lucky enough to find a decent family-sized house with a large garden at a price we could afford. This house is more reasonable because it is on a main road. It’s been a great family home. We’ve brought up our three children here and we now have eight grandchildren so the garden is full of swings and toys once more.’
Maurice and Sandy are moving out to Bracknell to be near their daughter who has just had three children in three years. "It will be good to be more involved with the children. We haven’t found anywhere to live yet but we haven’t really been seriously looking until our house is sold.
"Our favourite Chiswick restaurants are Pizza Express and Andy’s kebabs by Turnham Green station. We also go down to The Bull on Strand on the Green. I will miss our trips to Chiswick House grounds with the grandchildren where we visit the café for cappuccino and ice cream."