Clive, Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Clive is starring in a play this November, at various venues around Plymouth

I’m back doing The Big Issue full-time as much as the theatre allows me to be full-time. The other day we had Black Sabbath: The Ballet and it was only four shows and they were all sold out, which is quite good. It was the most magazines I’d sold since Christmas. Winter is always the best time to be a Big Issue vendor from my point of view, in terms of sales. 

I got two GCSEs a couple of years ago when I was 58 and that was big news for me, The Big Issue and for City College Plymouth. Those GCSEs got me on a level 3 diploma in theatre production and creative arts. I passed the first year with flying colours. We had three lecturers who were proficient in theatre acting and film acting but they disappeared to new projects.

We got three new lecturers and they were all from a background of musical theatre so in the second year the course morphed into that. I’m an actor, not a singer and dancer, so I tried to get through it. But by March I realised that it was just not my cup of tea and I can’t do something for 20 hours a week that I’m not enjoying because I’ve got EUPD, which is Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, and PTSD. That would be really negative to my mental health so I pulled out. 

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But being back in education was fundamental for me in mending my head. I’ve been on the streets for 23 years with nothing more to think about than how to survive the day or how to get my next beer. So my mental faculties were pretty small – you could barely think what your name is sometimes. So I was successful because I never thought I’d pass the two GCSEs.

That’s given me the confidence I need to act in a theatre. And I’ve got The Big Issue to give me a bit of extra money and keep me from being isolated. 

Now I’m out in the community doing work like speaking to medical students about my experience of homelessness. I’ve also got a show I’m preparing for. The name of the play is It Shouldn’t Be Like This and it’s all about homelessness in Plymouth. I play a former Royal Marine who’s caught in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan and now he’s on the streets.

I’ve got my script and I’m memorising my lines. We’ve got 11 places we’re doing around Plymouth throughout November. It’s a proper community show and it’s the fifth one I’ve done. 

I’m 60 now and I’m very proud to be able to say to my customers that I’ve managed to survive that long. Most people on the streets don’t live past 48 – I’ve seen dozens of people die around me. I’m completely vegetarian going back about three months now. It’s going really well, a lot of that puppy kind of fat you get has gone.

I think for anybody over 50 becoming vegetarian is really good. I’ve got more energy now. I can keep going all day whereas before I’d have to sit down a bit more often. 

My dog Geezer is still with me. He’s 14 now, which is around 70 in our years. He was complaining when I first went back to The Big Issue after Christmas. But he soon started to realise that it’s good being back out with all the excitement and new smells and all that. He’s bang up for it now. Me and him are a good team. 

Details of Clive’s shows are available here

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Theatre Royal Plymouth (TRP), Royal Parade, Plymouth, UK