They’re more likely to be startled by seeing him in everyday garb – the actor, Welsh-born but of Irish lineage, has made his name as a handsome addition to some of the best-known swords-and-sandals epics, from the movies 300, Troy and Clash of the Titans to a six-month stint on BBC hit Atlantis, alongside fellow East Yorkshire resident and good mate Mark Addy.
There’s more to him, though, than a great line in steely-eyed warriors – he’s also Artistic Director of one of this country’s newest theatres, in his adopted hometown of Beverley.
Vincent and his wife, actress Amelia Curtis, were living in East Dulwich when their now nine-year-old daughter Esmé was born, and they decided that they wanted their family to grow up outside London.
Amelia was from the East Riding and one day, on a trip home to visit the family, the couple spotted a house in Beverley that they liked the look of.
“East Dulwich is very cool, but we didn’t really want our kids growing up in London,” he says. “Amelia’s family run a farm near Beeford and we’d always thought it was a lovely area to live. It was quite spur of the moment, really.”
It wasn’t long, though, before Vincent identified a hole in the cultural life of Beverley.
“It’s a great town full of very clued-up people – but there was no arts venue,” he says. “Pocklington had an arts centre, Goole had an arts centre. Beverley is the county town, it had some great festivals and events and loads of artistic people – but no central venue.”
Vincent met through friends East Riding Council leader Steve Parnaby, who shared his vision, and offered a former Baptist Chapel being used as council offices and storage at a peppercorn rent. Everything was falling into place – and then the recession hit.
“You can hardly lay off council workers then be seen to be funding an arts venue – it’s just not on,” says Vincent. His dream was put on hold for a few years, but with the help of a committed team of volunteers, the ERT finally opened 18 months ago with a festive production of A Christmas Carol – a sell-out – followed by John Godber’s hit show about the aftermath of the miners’ strike, Shafted! – another sell-out.
Vincent starred alongside David Schaal in A Steady Rain, by House of Cards and Mad Men writer Keith Huff, which transferred to London and was chosen by both The Times and The Sunday Times as their pick of the week. And last Christmas, the ERT’s production of Oliver Twist was – you’ve guessed it – a sell-out. Quite remarkably in these days of subsidised arts, the ERT is entirely self-supporting, and receives no government funding.
When he’s not slogging away at the artistic coalface of regional theatre, or travelling the world to star in movies and TV series, the actor and his family – Esmé has a three-year-old brother, Max – enjoy a visit to the Pipe and Glass.
“We’ve been coming here for years,” he says. “We usually eat in the bar, but if we’re having a ‘bit of a do’, for a birthday, say, we’ll book and eat in the restaurant.
“It’s not just about the Pipe and Glass, it’s about the whole South Dalton experience – it’s a great place to go for a walk after a nice lunch.”
Try and catch a show this summer at the lovely East Riding Theatre, where Vincent is Artistic Director.
James Veitch – Dot Con
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