THE acclaimed Southend Shakespeare Company are gearing up to tread the boards once again.

The group will be putting on Henry IV part I later this month at the Palace Theatre in Westcliff.

For those not familiar with the Bard’s story- here’s a quick rundown.

It’s a bit of an ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ tale. Basically, Henry IV, is a king too exhausted from fighting to save his throne. To make things worse his son is happier drinking and carousing with the loveable rogue, Sir John Falstaff in the taverns and brothels of East London.

Henry IV Part One is one of Shakespeare’s classic history plays and features some of his most famous characters in the shape of Prince Hal, Hotspur, the Fat Knight Sir John Falstaff as well as Henry himself.

Southend Shakespeare Company’s leading actor Andrew Sugden will be stepping into the role of Falstaff.

Here, Andrew, age 54 from Leigh, shares some insights into his career and the upcoming production..

When did you start to take an interest in theatre?

I had two lines as Organ Morgan in a school production of Under Milk Wood but didn’t get more seriously involved until my mid twenties. My first play was a Billericay Players show at the Cramphorn Theatre in Chelmsford in 1989, a Francis Durbridge suspense, the House Guest in which I murdered a couple of people. It was great fun and I’ve been in something every year since. I joined the SSC in 1992.”

Are or were any members of your immediate family involved in drama?

“I’ve not seen any members of my family on stage but my grandma was involved in drama in her younger days and she was infectious in her enthusiasm.”

Have you done any sort of formal training for acting/singing/dancing?

“Not really, only a short evening course many moons ago.”

Do you have any specialist skills – anything from stilt walking to dress-making – which you work into your repertoire?

“ I can juggle a bit, which very occasionally is of use.”

Which experience/role do you regard as the highlight of your amdram career to date?

“ I enjoyed playing Prospero in The Tempest outdoors a couple of years ago. A long time favourite has been Parson Hugh in The Merry Wives of Windsor, a lovely part by turn melancholic and funny, an authority figure then very silly.”

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

“One open air performance in Stratford we somehow disturbed a wasps’ nest and spent the rest of the scene dodging and ducking out of their way. The scene was rather more animated than usual! “

How do you earn a living?

“I’m an accountant for a housing association.”

Which actor (s) do you most admire and why?

“I like Roger Allam he is such an outstanding actor in comedy and dramatic roles with superb and expressive vocal tones. Other actors I like are Oliver Ford-Davies and Penelope Wilton – usually I like actors with a distinctive voice.”

What role would you most like to play and why?

“ I just take each play as it comes really – it is nice to be cast in any of the classic plays, as its fascinating to see them lifted off the page in rehearsals.”

Ever corpsed on stage?

“A few years after getting diabetes my blood sugar went far too low in the middle of a show and wandered on stage not really knowing where I was and repeated the same line to every cue I was given going round in circles. Somehow the others managed to carry on and get me off stage where I was able to recover. I’ve always kept a much closer eye on my bloods in shows since then!”

Any plans for the future, after (current production)?

“After Part One of Henry we will be doing Part Two in April next year!”

Any tricks for remembering your lines?

“Tricks for line learning - I wish! The only way to learn lines is to read the script 50 times and then when you are sick of it read it 50 times more until some of it sticks in your mind.”

Henry IV Part I, will be on at the Palace Theatre (Dixon Studio) from November 20-24 Call the box office on 01702 351135 .