By way of compensation, they invited him to ‘Come along and watch the rehearsals’, as if watching another boy living his dream would somehow lessen the devastation he felt. Russell did however make his first major stage entrance, when he became so entranced watching and learning from the Oliver cast working out, he leant too far forward and in his enthusiasm, fell headfirst out of the visitor’s box, bringing the entire theatre company to a standstill.
His parents understood that their live-wire son needed to be immersed in performance and felt he was not to be restricted by conventional education, so at age of 12 with their love & support, he auditioned and was accepted into the renowned Sylvia Young Theatre School. He was in his element, learning from some of the best in the business. His professional career took off as he honed his craft acting in television, theatre, film and musicals, whilst also in demand for mainstream commercials and modelling in between roles.
THE FICKLE FINGER OF FATE
The unexpected intervention of fate has played a key role in Russell’s career. He was cast for an international tour of Oliver as one of Fagin’s crew and as understudy to Dodger. One week before departure, the boy who was cast as Dodger woke to find his voice cracking and breaking an octave lower than the part required, and Russell awoke to find himself in the lead role. From that tour onwards, he was consistently cast in some of the juiciest roles available for a juvenile actor and his career went from strength to strength.
As a busy teenage actor Russell worked with Roger Daltrey on two productions, where a working respect and friendship was forged. It was Roger Daltrey who led the young Nash to pick up a guitar for the first time, when he invited him to learn two songs very quickly, so that he could audition at the famous Abbey Road studios, for the lead in the movie ‘Buddy’s Song’. He lost the part to Chesney Hawkes but Daltrey, impressed with the musicality of his young Little Match Girl fellow actor, asked him to join him in Hastings to perform on the demos for the soundtrack. A passion was fired and for the next five years, in every spare moment, Russell dedicated himself to making music, fascinated by harmony and technique, teaming up with some really wonderful like-minded musical soul mates. He knew music was going to be his destiny.
Another poignant moment in this period occurred when he was appearing in Lionel Bart’s ‘Blitz’. Diane Langton, the actor who had also been alongside him in the feisty and ill-fated production of ‘Angry Housewives’ was a big mate of Bart and insisted on re introducing them. Naturally Bart remembered the performance of one of his cheekier Dodgers and was delighted to spend time with him. He generously shared insight into how he composed and heard music. These two men, one coming to a sad end of his life and the other full of enthusiasm just beginning, had a profound discussion about composing, neither knowing that many years in the future, Russell would be co writing a musical of his own.
*Royal Variety Performance – Lead in Sylvia Young Theatre School Company
*Canada Tour of Oliver, lead of Dodger, directed by Peter Coe. ‘82
*Tyne & Wear – Peter Pan lead ‘85
* TV series, Terry and June ’86
*Lyric Hammersmith – Musical, Angry Housewives, director Art Woolf ‘86
*TV movie playing The lead Arthur in Roger Daltrey’s musical version of the Hans Christian Anderson classic tale of ‘The Little Match Girl’ directed by Michael Custance ‘86
*Salome’s last Dance, directed and cast by Ken Russell.’87
*TV series How to be Cool, starring Roger Daltrey. ‘88
*William Tell TV series filmed in France for Canadian TV. ‘89
*Bearskin – an Urban Fairytale, with Ian Drury and Tom Waites, directed by Ann & Eduardo Guedes. ‘89
*UK regional tour of Oliver, playing Dodger, with Roy Hudd as Fagin. ‘90
*National Theatre London in a commemorative Gala Performance celebrating the history of the Mayors of London. ‘91
*Blitz Musical (Lionel Bart) Tyne & Wear National Youth ’92