MATT WARNER, 40, plays the role of surgeon Frederick Treeves in Cast & Crew’s production of the Elephant Man.

Tell us about the Elephant Man and your role in it?

It’s the true story of Joseph Merrick, who was displayed as a freak in a fairground until rescued by the surgeon Frederick Treeves (Anthony Hopkins played the part in the film version).

I play Treeves. When you start to study it, you realise it’s quite a deep part. He’s a confident and successful man at the start of the play, who starts to doubt himself and his motives.

How did you become involved in acting?

I did it all the way through school, and loved it. But when I left school, the need to learn a trade took over. I did my chef’s training at Thurrock college, and then went to work in London, and basically just lost touch with acting.

Then – it was just over a year ago – I suddenly rediscovered it.

A friend at work persuaded me to go along to Cast & Crew rehearsal. It took a lot of badgering at first.

When I did see them at work, I thought they were amazing. I offered to help them out backstage.

Next day, I had this script thrust into my hand and they said: “Right, this is the role you’re playing.” I can’t say I put up much resistance. On the first night, I stepped onto the stage for the first time, gulped and went bright red for a moment, and then launched into the part.

The first laugh came from the audience, I go this big adrenaline rush, and I knew then that this was the life for me.

What was this role?

He was a drunken Shakespearian director in the Art of Coarse Acting. I recited the lines to myself in this drunken voice while I was walking the dog. I had to walk out on the marshes where there was nobody around.

The role got a good review by Noda. I thought that Noda was a girl, until I discovered that it stood for National Operatic and Dramatic Association.

What led you to train as a chef?

I love food. Simple as that really.

I worked in the City, mostly for banks, cooking for these very important, very rich people. It was beyond the realm of comprehension howwealthy they were.

I loved the work, but then my father persuaded me to get the Class 1 (heavy goods vehicle) licence and I went to work for his haulage business.

I kept up with the cooking in a different way though – by teaching cooking at the adult community college.

Since my father retired, I’ve been working with a friend doing carpentry and maintenance at Pinewood Film Studios. I never trained as a carpenter, But it’s not that different from being a chef. It’s all about cutting. If you’ve got a good eye for a cut, you’re OK.

Has your theatre career ever been useful in your day job, and/or have you ever drawn on your day job for any of your stage roles?

I’m always talking to people. It doesn’t matter if it’s a rich banker in the City or a guy on a building site.

I just naturally go up to them and start a conversation and find out about their lives. I’ve played quite varied roles since I took up acting. I think meeting and getting to know so many different types of characters helps you to play different types of characters.

Pinewood is a fabulous place to work for someone who loves acting.

A crowd of 30 suddenly walk by. A World War Two pilot. A dog with a studio pass on its collar. And there I am in the heart of the film business, walking around studying my lines, for a production in Essex.

What has been your most embarrassing moment involving drama, onstage or off?

I was doing this quick change act. I had to change from a suit into a World War One uniform in about 15 seconds. I had two ladies to help me. I’d strip down to my boxer shorts and they’d get the uniform onto me. On the last night, I played a practical joke. I put on these really tiny boxer shorts. The moment came, and all anyone on stage or in the audience could hear was the ladies’ screams.

Which actor do you most admire?

Daniel Day-Lewis. Less for his later, heavy roles, like in Lincoln, but for his earlier roles.

My Left Foot – that really makes me think hard about the art of acting. There is so much dedication and precision there.

Ever thought of going professional?

Yes. I’m really going to give it a try. The work I’m doing at the moment allows me to take the odd day off to go to auditions. I don’t want to grow old thinking, I wish I’d done that.

ý Performances of the Elephant Man are on Saturday, October 3 (2.45 and 7.45pm) and Sun, October 4 at 2.45pm at Cornelius Vermuyden School, Canvey.