About Us

Jonathan Hansler

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 Jonathan Hansler plays Michel de Montaigne.

Jonathan has innumerable stage and screen credits.  He is an award-winning actor, writer, and comedian.  His t.v. credits include appearances in 'My Family' 'Hotel Babylon',  'The Queen's Sister' and 'Eastenders'.  In 2011 he was nominated for 'Best Actor' in London's 'Off West End' awards.

In 2016,  Jonathan appeared in 'The Libertine' at the  Theatre Royal, Haymarket, with Dominic Cooper.  He  toured with an adaptation of 'Northanger Abbey' as General Tilney in 2017.   Gamers will recognise him as the voice of Lucius Malfoy in two of the Harry Potter video games.  Currently,  he is touring with Dinner Theatre,  wowing audiences as Basil Fawlty.  Generally 2019 promises to be a rewarding year for Jonathan.  As well as 'The First Modern Man',   it will see the return of 'Goodbye: the Afterlife of Cook and Moore' which he co-wrote.  This blisteringly funny play about Peter Cook and Dudley Moore,  premiered in Edinburgh in 2007;  it was revived, with rave reviews ("a comic gem") in 2015.  Jonathan plays the sardonic genius, Peter Cook.  

Also, this year,  the new Gothic horror film 'Automata' (about which there's already quite a buzz) is released.  Jonathan plays the lead villain - a ghostly Prussian general .  He is also about to feature as the lead villain in the film 'High Water' which shortly begins shooting in Brighton .  Jonathan is  currently preparing the material for two one-man shows: one (his first stand-up show) 'Unspoken' is an uncompromising view of the darker side of a difficult life; and one, "The Memoirs of a Professional Cad", an account of the life of that suave film idol, George Sanders.

Find out more about Jonathan

Helen Niland

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Helen Niland directs 'The First Modern Man.'  

Helen has worked with a number of theatre companies in and around London. Her numerous directing credits include: 'The Glass Menagerie', 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie', 'Joan of Arc', and 'The Great Gatsby'.

She created Perfect Word Productions' first stage piece,  ' A Kind Bowl' which featured in the Transcend Festival of performance and music in 2013.  

The spoof Bond show 'Martini Bond' was a hit at the Camden Fringe festival in 2012 and transferred to the Broadway theatre Barking. 

Helen wears a number of (stylish) hats.  She  has worked widely as an Art Director for, among others:  the Face;  Arena, Ferrari; Conde Nast; and Swarovski.  

She is also a founder and Creative Director at the Made in England Collective, which is a  boutique creative agency which specialises in editorial and communication including: film-making and production, advertising, brand identity and  one-off fashion photography campaigns. 

made in england collective

Michael Barry

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 Michael Barry.  Writer. 

'The First Modern Man'  was born out of  my  personal enthusiasm for the essays of Montaigne - See the blog.   I hope when you see the play you will feel something of my love for this civilized and compassionate man.

My site-specific play ‘A Kind Bowl’ featured in the Transcend Festival in 2013.  Set, and performed,  in St.Giles-in-the-Fields,  it explored the stories of felons who had a last drink there before going on to Tyburn for execution.  

In 2014 and 2015 I won the Guy Mackay shield awarded by Player-Playwrights for best short play (for 'The Perfect Setting'; and ''Encountered Briefly"; plays about engagement and fleeting encounters).

Also in 2015, my play 'Back for More' won the Player-Playwrights John Cobb cup for best comedy of the year.  It featured the comic mishaps attending the successful resurrection of a corrupt M.P.

In 2016, my play ‘A Start’ - in which a writer struggles with over-assertive characters as he tries to begin a play -was staged by the CornerHOUSE theatre after being a joint winner of their one-act play competition.  

Currently, my play "Hanging Around" (or, 'What Godot didn't do next') is shortlisted in the INK festival's competition for themed plays.

Venus Raven

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 Venus Raven.  Lighting design .

Venus is a hugely experienced lighting designer. She trained at the American College of Greece (BA in Theatre Arts) and the University of York (MA in Theatre Writing, Directing and Performance).  She  has worked in many  theatres around London and outside - including: Greenwich Theatre; the Old Red Lion Theatre; the Leicester Square Theatre;  the Bradford Playhouse; the King's Head; and regular gigs at the Hen and Chickens.  

She is also  a photographer,  poet  and  a performance artist, regularly both designing installations and giving performances in a wide variety of venues, including spaces in London, Edinburgh,  Brighton, and Glastonbury.

Find out more about Venus

Michel de Montaigne

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 Born  as Michel Eyquem 1533 in his father's chateau in a village now know as Saint-Michel-de-Montaigne, near Bordeaux.  

1539 goes to a boarding school in Bordeaux: the College de Guyenne

1548/54 Probably studies law in Paris/ Toulouse

1554 begins to work as magistrate, first at  Périgueux , then Bordeaux. 

1558/9 meets Estienne de La Boetie.

1562 Massacre at Vassy begins France's civil wars.

1563 Estienne de La Boetie dies

1565 marries Francoise de La Chassaigne. Of their six daughters, only one, Leonore, survives infancy.

1568 Montaigne's father dies. Michel inherits the estate of Montaigne.

1571 He retires from public life

1580 His first two books of essays published

1580/ 1581 Montaigne travels in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy

1581 elected Mayor of Bordeaux (Montaigne finds out while travelling in Italy)

1583 re-elected Mayor

1588  prepares a new edition of his essays.  A third book is  added.

Died 1592 in his chateau. 

1603 Florio's translation of Montaigne published. Gonzalo's speech in Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' (written 1610/11) about how he would organize the commonwealth if he ruled Prospero's island draws directly from the essay 'On Cannibals'.

Julian Starr

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Julian Starr.  Sound design.

Julian graduated from Australia's prestigious  National Institute of Dramatic Arts with a degree in Technical Theatre and Stage Management. He has  continued to add  expertise to his knowledge of sound.

Julian has worked in a wide variety of shows both in Australia and the UK.  Shows include: 'Mosquitos' (directed by Rufus Norris) at the National Theatre; 'Richard III' at the Sydney Opera House; the grand tour of the children's legend, Mister Maker, at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, (QPAC); 'Mama Mia' at the Sydney Capitol Theatre;  and Disney's ' Aladdin' Musical (QPAC).

For the last two years, and again this year, Julian has worked on sound design for the Royal Military Tattoo, at Edinburgh.