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'There's nothing that gives memore pleasure than performing'

Actor Phelim Drew has adapted George Orwell's 1933 memoir Down and Out in Paris and London for the stage. A highlight of this year's Show in a Bag Fringe programme at Bewley's Cafe Theatre, it looks set to be an unforgettable one-man show.

Writing and staging a brand new play is one thing, but adapting a well-known book is surely a daunting task."I read it a number of years ago and it struck me that there was the makings of a one-man show there, and I set about adapting it. As I hadn't done it before, I didn't go at it with a chainsaw, I just tried to sort of reduce it by degrees, and that was a very sort of torturously slow process.

"With the mentoring of Gavin Kostick (Fishamble theatre company) over about two or three months, I managed to reduce it - I had already got it down to about 50 pages and then I had to sort of reduce it down to about 15, 16. That was a very difficult job, because you're sort of throwing out some of your favourite bits from the book, but you had to be quite ruthless in terms of cutting out anything that was tangential to the telling of the story. I'm really happy with what I've ended up with."

It must have been an educational process, preparing your own script."Absolutely. It's been quite all-consuming. If you want to do justice to the project that you've embarked on I think you owe it to yourself to make sure that all the elements are in place. With any drama, you can never know something well enough, and you never stop learning it."

A lot of actors worry about where the next job is coming from. Does that fear ever leave? "It never leaves. But the job of acting, you've got a product which you're trying to sell and, you know, you have to work with people in order to sell that product.

"You have to engage with people. It's something you're constantly working on. You're holding out for things, but what's nice about this process is that this is something that has come from me.

"It hasn't happened without the help of a lot of people, but it does feel different from turning up at the Abbey for rehearsals on a Monday morning and knowing that you're gonna have a job for three months and you're gonna be paid every week. Actually, I'm quite looking forward to that role again. It would be nice to have that security for a while!"

What do you think you would be doing if you weren't acting?

"I've often tried to think about that, and I generally come back to the conclusion that I don't get as much pleasure from doing anything else as I do from the process of acting. It can be frustrating, but then, that is part of the job."

More and more actors are required, even encouraged, to produce their own work these days.

"You have to be a little bit more resourceful, and there are so many people around today who are incredibly industrious

"When the economy recovers there might be a bit more money put back into the arts and there'll be more paid work for actors and actresses, but in the meantime, one has to sort of think outside the box a bit."

What do you hope people will take away from this play?

"It's a very life-affirming piece of work and I hope people will laugh and think about it."

Phelim Drew's Down & Out in Paris and London by George Orwell is at Bewley's Cafe Theatre from September 9 to 20.


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