Steve is a child of the 60s. Not so much Swinging London but a tough working class family in Leeds. In those days it was a world of tin baths, catalogue money, rugby league and fog. And just to add to the cobbled streets narrative at the age of three Steve developed consumption (or TB). A decade earlier he would have died but by then the disease was curable even if it did mean a long period of hospital isolation. During this time Steve's main companion was his teddy bear, 'Little Ted', who, very happily, sits by his bedside to this day.
Money was tight but no more than for most people. His grandfather on his father's side was a miner and his grandmother was a cleaner in the local factory. His mother's father ran newspaper deliveries from his home and his mother's mother had been a seamstress for Montague Burton (later the clothes shop Burtons). Steve's mother was more of the aspirational post-war generation. She qualified as a comptometer operator in an insurance firm but died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage when Steve was nine. Steve's father had been training to be a maths teacher but due to a series of mental breakdowns and hospitalisation he was forced to abandon his ambitions. Diagnosed schizophrenic, he found it impossible to find work of any kind until eventually the Catholic Church 'took him in' and gave him the job as a caretaker at the city cathedral of St Anne's where he stayed for the rest of his life. But his mental instability eventually became too much for his two children. One night, a few days before Christmas in 1974, Steve (then aged fourteen) and his sister ran away from home and went to live with their maternal grandmother and grandfather. They never returned.
It was a hard and rocky childhood, but there were happy times too, with sing-songs round the piano, afternoons at the seaside and, most importantly, a strong sense of being loved. Tough love, they call it. Perhaps the best kind. Family gatherings were always a great highlight for Aunty Edith would make Steve stand up and sing 'Ave Maria' for which he would receive a big hug, a round of applause and sixpence! The need to perform and dress-up began to grow. And the big smiles from the family photos show how much he was beginning to love that side of life!
Steve was a grammar school boy, one of the last of that bygone era. St Michael's College, Leeds, was an all boys Jesuit run school with traditional values. Teachers were called 'Masters' and Latin was compulsory. Though strict on discipline and academic achievement, the school very much encouraged theatre and drama and Steve took every opportunity to perform in school plays and at cabaret evenings. There were roles in CHARLEY'S AUNT as the real aunt, WIND IN THE WILLOWS as the Judge and ANDROCLES AND THE LION as the Roman Emperor. Greasepaint is very difficult to remove so next day you could always tell it was the boys with slightly odd orange faces who had been in school play. And that strange smell of greasepaint lingered long after, too. The showbiz bug had bitten and never really went away.
Technically Steve's professional debut was on 'the West End stage', or, to be more precise, the stage of Pudsey West End Working Men's Club and Institute Union. Whilst still at school aged sixteen Steve developed a successful comedy act which he took round the Working Men's Clubs of the north. He had become a 'turn'. The act was mainly impressions of TV personalities such as Patrick Moore, Frankie Howerd and Brian Clough. But there was also a comedy section where Steve did leading politicians including Harold Wilson, Ted Heath, Jim Callaghan (and even a young Margaret Thatcher) in a crosstalk routine of insults and gags.
During these formative years on the northern club circuit Steve learnt that showbiz is a fickle mistress. You could be booed-off and paid-off (meaning sent home with only half your fee) or, then again, cheered to the rafters with calls for "More!". Every night offers different needs and challenges. A lesson that still comes in handy when Steve is performing stand-up on the comedy circuit today.
In 1979 Steve took the offer a place at the University of Birmingham to study Drama and English. A new world was revealed. The Birmingham Drama course was renowned for its emphasis on a practical understanding of theatre through doing it. It was a panoramic study and ranged from the acting methods of Stanislavsky and Brecht to performance in Shakespeare, Chekhov, and Maeterlinck. There was even an American Musical Theatre course where Steve ended up 'hoofin' it', as they say on Broadway, in the opening number from A CHORUS LINE.
In the English department Steve took a strong interest in Satire, especially the works of Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. Pope said of satire: "O sacred Weapon! Left for Truth's defence, / Sole dread of Folly, Vice and Insolence!" Swift had a slightly more cynical approach: "Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders go generally to discover everyone's face but their own." Steve's interest in Satire never went away and he now lectures on its history, especially in the broadcast media, at universities and societies across the country.
During his University years 1981 and 1982, Steve started directing, writing and acting in shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festivals. Building sets in the morning, running box office all afternoon and then performing in shows and plays in the evening became a way of life. However, Steve discovered the real challenge was not so much the drama on stage but rather the balancing of behind the scenes egos that were often delicate and easily bruised. Contemporaries and fellow Edinburgh performers from that era include Mark Billingham (now a successful novelist), Nick Philippou (now an experimental performance director), Chris Ballantyne (now TV producer of SILENT WITNESS), Marcus Prince (now TV events planner at the British Film Institute), Mandy Stevens (now called 'Amanda Ross' and owner of Cactus Television), Tim Taylor (now called 'Tim Frances' a successful West End actor), Angela de Chastelai Smith (still with the same name and now an EASTENDERS director) and Jon Gaunt (now a controversial 'shock jock' radio presenter and outspoken UKIP supporter). Oh, what memories! Over the years Edinburgh was to become a sort of second home. In the 1990s and 2000s Steve brought several one-man shows to this great festival city and continues to be a regular visitor.
After leaving University Steve spent some time in repertory theatre until, in 1984, his life changed dramatically for that was the year ITV launched a new satirical puppet programme called SPITTING IMAGE and Steve became a founding member of the team.
For the puppets caricatured by Fluck and Law, Steve provided the voices of Alan Bennett, the Queen Mum, David Attenborough, Roy Hattersley, Margaret Thatcher, Denis Healey, Malcolm Rifkind, Enoch Powell, Bruce Forsyth, David Frost, Ted Heath, Leonard Rossiter, Harold Wilson and many more for the next ten years. "It was great fun and often quite exhilarating to be part of this ground-breaking satirical series. Most importantly it led to the making of many life-long friends and colleagues", said Steve. In 2014, the 1984 team were reunited for a series of panel discussions at the BFI (the British Film Institute) celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of SPITTING IMAGE. These panel talks later became part of the BBC Arena special WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO SPITTING IMAGE?
During the 80s television producers discovered that Steve could not only sound like the Prime Minister he impersonated on SPITTING IMAGE but with his strange protean talent he could look like her too. Thus 'The Thatcher Years' were born. Throughout the following decade and beyond, Steve became a regular face on television, albeit looking like someone else. Over the years, Steve's impersonation of Mrs Thatcher in the full regalia became, as THE TIMES put it, "the industry standard". His appearances on TV shows of the 80s and beyond include THE NEW STATESMAN with Rik Mayall, THE MIKE YARWOOD SHOW, THE LITTLE AND LARGE SHOW, THE TROUBLE WITH JOAN COLLINS, BULLSEYE, THE RORY BREMNER SHOW, THE BIG BREAKFAST, CINDERELLA - THE SHOE MUST GO ON, THIS MORNING, WOGAN, TEN GLORIOUS YEARS, THE BOBBY DAVRO SHOW, THE KRYPTON FACTOR, THAT'S LIFE!, CHILDREN IN NEED, COMIC RELIEF, the US series BAD GIRLS: REBELS WITH A CAUSE and even a five minute slot on NEWSNIGHT. Steve was featured as Margaret Thatcher in the film DREAMING, a BBC Screen One drama, alongside comedian Billy Connolly, and made special appearances in the stage shows THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S THIRD BALL and THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S BIGGEST BALL. Steve also 'guested' as Lady Thatcher on the 80s themed edition of THE WEAKEST LINK and was memorably seen in the short film THATCHER FROM HELL! directed by Roger Law which was shown at the BFI. A particular favourite appearance was oddly enough singing 'My Favourite Things' with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis, where slightly altered lyrics such as "Capturing butterflies, / Breaking their wings" somehow found themselves part of the evening's entertainment.
In the 90s Steve was invited to return to the Drama Department of the University of Birmingham, this time as a Visiting Lecturer. Over a period of seven years Steve created and directed courses in Stand-up Comedy, Screenplay Writing, Greek Theatre, American Broadway Musicals, and the Comedy-of-Manners acting style as well as delivering lectures on the university Film Studies course. Former students of Steve from this period include the actors Matthew Goode and Tom Riley, classical singer Natasha Marsh, comedy performers James Wrighton and Andrew Spiers, theatre directors Ed Curtis and Richard Twyman, and TV producer Neale Simpson. Steve still lectures and gives talks to various groups on a wide range of subjects. He also runs practical drama workshops for professional actors and students of all ages and backgrounds at universities and colleges across the country.
Following the death of his grandmother who had helped bring him up in his teenage years, Steve wrote a short piece about her which was read by a BBC producer who then invited Steve to write a column on 'Grandmothers' for Radio Four. This led to a succession of creating broadcast columns and features that itself led to the making of a whole documentary series. Similarly, Steve's Musical Theatre course notes for the University of Birmingham were written up and became a series of articles for the magazine MUSICAL STAGES which then led directly to a commission to write for THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF MUSIC. Likewise, the publication of the book I, MARGARET led to a play for BBC Radio called PRIZEGIVING which then led to further writing projects for BBC drama, including drama PROPS and the satirical series THE GHOST OF NUMBER TEN. Steve's grounding as a puppeteer on SPITTING IMAGE prepared the way for a whole variety of television puppet shows and, more recently, work as a Computer Motion Capture performer (or Mo-Cap as it's known in the industry). Appearing as Professor Edmund Spencer in the BBC short film THE GANZFELD PROCEDURE led to Steve landing the leading role of astro-physicist Professor Richards in the Sci-fi movie 51 DEGREES NORTH, directed by the German born film producer Grigorij Richters. Coming from the north and with a strong comedy background meant that Steve was the obvious choice to play Roy Barraclough in the play CISSIE AND ADA which centred on the friendship of Roy Barraclough and Les Dawson and background behind their creations 'Cissie and Ada'. The play had a nationwide tour in 2013. One venue included the Buxton Opera House and his appearance there then led to Steve being offered the role of Dame Trott in their production of JACK AND THE BEANSTALK.
Everything connects. And each of these areas of work themselves connect. Writing, performance, teaching, devising, acting and directing are ultimately part of the same art that is creation, collaboration, making it all work and putting on the show.