Ian Saville: a short biography
I was born in the East End of London, England, on 30 April 1953. My background is Jewish, and I went to Hackney Downs School (old boys include Harold Pinter, - winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature - Steven Berkoff and Michael Caine, but the tories closed it down for their own political reasons in 1995).
I began conjuring at the age of 10 or 11. I went in for talent contests, reaching the semi-finals of the Butlins national talent contest (alongside pianist Bobby Crush and comedian Mike Reid). Then I became interested in "serious" theatre.
I studied Drama at Exeter University, worked with the touring political theatre group Broadside Mobile Workers' Theatre, and in community theatre.
Around 1979 I started developing a "socialist magic" act, using magic tricks and ventriloquism to present and celebrate a socialist view of the world. This act, in its several variations, has been performed in theatres, cabaret clubs, festivals, as well as conferences, demonstrations and on picket lines throughout Britain and abroad.
Parts of it have also been performed on television - appearances include In Search of Happiness (with Angus Deayton), Jonathon Ross's The Last Resort, BBC's Cabaret at Jongleurs, Channel 4's The Happening and many others. Contents of the cabaret act change regularly, but standard tricks include "The Class Struggle Rope Trick" and "The vanish of the military-industrial complex".
During the miners' strike of 1984-5, I was very busy supporting the striking workers at benefits and fundraising events in London and the north.
My full length show, Brecht on Magic, was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1985, and won me a Time Out London Theatre award "for (my) distinctive combination of wit and showmanship", and was performed on the Olivier stage of London’s National Theatre as a Platform Performance.
My next production was a journey through utopias, in the company of William Morris, called Getting Nowhere - Again. This was performed at William Morris's house in Hammersmith, among many other places, in a performance organised by the William Morris Society.
In 1994 I wrote and performed Left Luggage, a personal look at left politics in a time of change.
I have also written plays, including Honourable Flags, based on my research into the history of political theatre. This has yet to receive a professional production, though students at E15 acting school staged a rehearsed reading directed by Crispin Bonham-Carter, and an early version of some scenes received a performace at a conference on political theatre.
I returned to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with singer-songwriter Leon Rosselson in 1996, in a two person show entitled Look at it this Way. Leon and I also present a show for children - A Dinosaur in my Shoe. Leon and I have worked together extensively, and have also presented an informal children's show called Don't put a Banana in your Ear.
My own shows for children include Saville Magic, The 3 Bananas and a science show for primary schoolchildren, Push the Cat and Pull the Apple. I have a doctorate for my study of political theatre in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s.
I do not belong to any political party, though I have been active in the peace movement, Friends of the Earth, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Asylum Seekers support, and many other left and progressive campaigns.
As well as performing magic, I am currently teaching part-time on Theatre Arts courses at Middlesex University.
I have acted and directed in more conventional theatre. Acting credits include Estragon in Beckett's Waiting for Godot at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, Ray Goodenough in Nigel Williams' Harry and Me at the Croydon Warehouse Theatre, and Theatre-in-Education projects at the Queens Theatre, Hornchurch. I have directed productions from Brecht to Chekhov, as well as supervising students on a wide range of projects.
In 1990 I attended training with Augusto Boal in the techniques of "Theatre of the Oppressed".
I also work occasionally with Forum Theatre Group Arc.
I live in London with my partner, counsellor Pam Laurance, and I have a son, Barney Laurance.