Desmond Jones and The School 1979-2004

My School was the longest running School of Mime and Physical Theatre in Britain. It opened on April 23rd 1979 at The British Theatre Association in Fitzroy Square WC1. I had a class of 18 but during the summer holiday a structural fault was found in the building and the School was unable to continue there.

After some searching we found St. Luke’s Church Hall in Shepherd’s Bush, West London, and from September 1979 this was the home of the School for the next 25 years. It was a very large hall, a very light and creative space, and we did great work.

Among the many visiting specialist teachers were leaders in the fields of Clowning, Masks, Commedia, and Keith Johnstone’s Impro techniques.

We used the hall also as a rehearsal space when I was training the actors for Jean-Jacques Annaud’s film “Quest for Fire”. It was a strange sight to see fully-costumed, and made-up cavemen sitting having a coffee-break on the grass outside! As well, I used it to experiment with movement and advise the actress Jane March for her part in the controversial “The Lover”(also directed by Annaud).

To begin with the School operated 3-month courses, developing later into 4 terms, culminating in an end of term performance.

The School taught pupils from over 50 countries and my name is especially well known in Brazil from where we always had a great number of pupils, largely because Denise Stoklos, a pupil from my very first term, became one of Brazil’s leading actresses and constantly recommended the School. Luis Louis, another ex-student, is also very well-known as a talented teacher in Brazil. In latter years Ris Widdicombe (Advanced Class 1991) also taught at the School. Many other pupils have gone on to perform and teach all over the world, some on the stage, TV and films; others in University departments and already established schools, and some opened schools of their own.

A good teacher needs huge working knowledge and experience in all the performing media. When I began teaching I already had a very varied stage and TV career, both as an actor and choreographer. I had performed with Peter Cook, Monty Python, Keith Johnstone (Impro!); I’d acted in countless TV dramas and sitcoms, and over 100 commercials. I trained actors for films, and performed in films, choreographed in the West End, directed in Hong Kong. I worked with Robert Towne (Greystoke, Chinatown), Jean-Jacques Annaud (Quest For Fire, The Lover), Victor Spinetti, Arnold Wesker, Ridley Scott, Mike Alfreds and many others.

I studied for two years in Paris with Etienne Decroux and for shorter periods with Jacques Lecoq, so that when I opened my School at the age of 42 I already had a lot under my belt. Although I based my work on Etienne Decroux, I began to forge my own path using everything I knew, all my varied experience, to teach a kind of movement-based theatre that could be used in everything from street theatre to straight theatre.

I believe a good teacher needs much more than theoretical knowledge. Otherwise you can merely reproduce what you have been taught, without personal depth, and relying on other people’s creativity. It is important to do more than just reproduce other people’s ideas. The richness and uniqueness of your teaching lies in the way you unite all the strands of your knowledge and experience into a coherent philosophy, and of course in having the personality and energy to put it across memorably. This is what I strived for and hope I have achieved.

I closed my School in August 2004 after 25 very successful years and I am now widening my horizons as an independent teacher, choreographer and director.

Desmond Jones

Desmond Jones Home Page Desmond Jones The Desmond Jones School of Mime