Robert was born on 18th August 1947 at Cedar Court nursing home in Sutton, Surrey, and grew up in a semi-detached house in Cheam, opposite Nonsuch Park. That park with its morning mists, its farm, its saw-mill, its walled rose garden, and its fiery golden painted palace which had long since vanished, became the place of inspiration for all his early poetry. Then, at the age of six, he had a magical visit to Salisbury Cathedral, which loomed out of the rain and left him dreaming of becoming an architect. He built a paper model of the cathedral, and also a paper theatre for which he attempted to write an opera, his first original work. Using the paper models that he made he created “Son et Lumière” effects with torches and coloured lights, and gave prepared performances.
But then it was the Century Cinema in Cheam which won his heart, and eventually his architectural plans were dropped. 3-D cinema then filled his imagination. He began to make films at the age of 12, with an 8mm Bolex camera, and also wrote plays for the open air theatre at his school. By the time he left school he had made 15 films, inspired by directors such as Antonioni and Bunuel. He also wrote a play for radio.
Continual mental and physical bullying at his preparatory school when he was only 11 left deep scars, and contributed to the development of severe intestinal problems, from which he nearly died at the age of 19. He fought back, however, with a little help from Gustav Mahler and Friedrich Rückert, the beauty of whose songs, crackling down the hospital ear-tubes, saved him and gave him the will to live. Although still in considerable pain, he asked to be propped up, and for a drawing board to be brought on which he wrote the novel “A Winter Emerald” for as long as he could hold the pen. He then began to recover.
By the time Robert left Cambridge University, where he studied English and made more films, the great hey-day of British Cinema was already over. The only opportunities that then existed were in Horror films, for which England was famous. When called upon to write the script for one in 1970, at the age of 22, he drew upon his experiences of bullying, and the nightmares he suffered, which had already given rise to several short stories. The resulting film, “Blood on Satan’s Claw”, had the frightening cruelty of children at its heart, and effectively launched his professional career. He then worked as a film editor for BBC Television, but it was Ireland, the land of imagination, which gave him, for a time, the creative freedom that he needed. It was there that he wrote and directed “The Outcasts” and the TV series “When Reason Sleeps”.
Although his main work has been in films, it was music that saved his life, and it was not forever content to remain a poor cousin to the silver screen. Over the years he used what little spare time he had to teach himself to compose, until he finally felt that he had become proficient, giving his first public performance in 1998. In recent years he has done more theatre work, and has been drawn towards music theatre (opera and musical comedy), which, ironically, was the first thing that he attempted when a child. But film still remains a great and engrossing love, nor has he stopped writing.
|design by visualeze, london|