Extract taken from an interview with Tomek Borkowy conducted by Pam Almaz in 2013. It talks about his meeting and work with Michael Almaz at the Cafe Theatre Upstairs. If you would like to hear the full interview (20 minutes) please contact Unfinished Histories.
Tomek Borkowky: ‘When I came to London, helped by a very close friend of mine, Philip D’Arche, he sent me immediately to an English language school and you know I was working on the building site during the day and I’m going to school. I met this guy, big guy from Argentina, Trotskyist, fantastic guy, whose girlfriend was an English actress, and you know after 6 months of being on building sites and learning English I was yearning to do something in the theatre, doesn’t matter what – sweep the floor, clean the loos, but in the theatre and this guy said to me, ‘Ah Tomek, you know my girlfriend told me that there is a job going in the one of the theatres in the West End’. I said,’ West End theatre. God I’ll go there and I just went to West End to the Bear and Staff pub, where the Cafe Theatre Upstairs was, and I didn’t know anything about the fringe theatre, and I’m just seeing this tiny room on top of the pub and I met, first time, Michael – Michael Almaz, who was a very interesting person you know, very strong looking, and with my with my broken English I just said, ‘I am a theatre practitioner from Poland and I just would like to to work here, just heard that there’s a job here,’ and he said, ‘Yeah- yes there is a job here, but you know, if you think that you are going to earn a lot of money you are mistaken.’
I started with Michael as a assistant stage manager, I don’t remember who was the venue manager and and stage manager in those days, but you know two or three weeks later after I started Michael said to me, ‘Oh Tomek, you know we are opening in a new venue not far away,’ – it was another pub or another bar near the Arts Theatre and Michael was putting there his new adaptation of The Dybbuk – and he said, ‘Oh maybe you will take over this place and you’ll be stage manager,’ and I said, ‘Yeah OK, of cours.’ And so we we did The Dybbuk and it lasted probably no more than a month and we had to close this second venue and then I moved back to the Bear and Staff pub Cafe Theatre Upstairs now as a stage manager, and in those days obviously Michael worked as a BBC reporter for the World News [Service] and he was going to to Israel quite often to do the work for the BBC, and then we were doing Intimacy and we were changing cast I think every two to three weeks, so it was approximately a week or ten days rehearsals very fast, and every two, three weeks we had a new cast and Michael started the new rehearsals with new girls and went to Israel and said to me to take over rehearsals, and I’ve seen the play probably twenty times already, running it day to day as a stage manager. So I took over the rehearsals while Michael was away and you know I worked with with actresses, and when Michael came back, he said, ‘OK, show me what you have done,’ and we showed him the progress and he just looked at me and said, ‘Tomek I didn’t direct this,’ and I said of of course Michael, I cannot direct like you that’s what I do, and I was a bit frightened that he was going to kick me out. You know he looked at me and said, ‘Ok just finish it.’ And I worked and finished it. It was my my first directing job in London. So I finish it and and I think I was was quite OK .’