Looking back at successful career

David Essex feels for some of the X Factor instant-fame, one-hit wonders.

“To have all that adulation and then become yesterday’s man must be difficult to live with,” he reflects.

“I am lucky that I have had a career that has gone on a long time. I think people can sense that I only do work that I believe in.”

The latest project is The Dishwashers by Canadian playwright Morris Panych which brings him to the Theatre Royal Brighton this week (March 24-29)

David plays a character called Dressler, quite the old timer in the dishwashing world. He’s done it for over 30 years and he’s about to be joined by new dishwasher, Emmett, whose new soap-sodden career is in sharp contrast to his former life as a City high-flyer.

Together they attack the endless supply of dirty dishes, soapsuds and despair with wit and humour as they seek for existential meaning.

As David says, his character is a philosopher: “He is an ex-prisoner who, as far as I am concerned, has educated himself in prison. He has psychopathic undertones!

“There is a dark side. His attitude towards being a dishwasher is that it is not a great job and that it is not an easy job, but he likes it. He is content.

“There is a confrontation with this new character that has come in, the city-slicker. He is just there because it is a way to make money until he can do something else. For my character, it is a lifetime commitment.”

David recalls that he never intended to act: “All I really wanted to be was a jazz drummer.”

But his manager and mentor used to take the 16 or 17-year-old David along to first or second nights of plays: “I was used to getting bottles thrown at the band because they thought the music we were playing was depressing. Suddenly to go to the theatre was very civilised.

“I was a working-class boy in the 1960s, and then the theatre was really Noel Coward and quite middle class.

“It was only really Godspell and Hair and Superstar that started to appeal to wider audiences.”

But it was those early experiences that steered David: “I joined a repertory company when I was about 18.”

He makes the point, though, that he has always seen music and acting as very much intertwined: “I do feel a little bit more comfortable on stage when there is music around, but really I have always just looked for something that sparked an interest in me, like this latest play.

Musically, his influences were back in the 60s, basically blues, and he recalls he would be bumping into people like Elton John, David Bowie and Rod Stewart before they became stars. David meanwhile was doing his own musical apprenticeship.

“It seemed like the three media, Godspell, Rock On and That’ll Be The Day converged, but before that there was a period that was tough going, when I was in a dormobile with eight other fellows.

“But then when everything just exploded, I had that experience behind me.

“But I have always been suspicious of fame and fortune. That has never been my motivation.

“My motivation has always been interest in the project that I am doing. I don’t think I ever imagined that I would ever be a bedroom poster, though I have still got the Blu-Tak on my shoulders!

“But really for me, it has always just been about trying to be as good as I possibly could in whatever it was that I was doing.”