|06 April 1986
by Geoff Kemp
Tonight, tonight won't be just any night. Tonight there will be a rising star at the centre of the theatrical world - Stratford-on-Avon. It will be the biggest night of Sean Bean's life.
He takes the stage at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre as Romeo in top director Michael Bogdanov's new production of "Romeo and Juliet" for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
For the local lad who has spent more time in the past shouting down from the terraces of Bramall Lane than up to Juliet's balcony, it means the climax of a meteoric rise to the top of his profession.
Just a few years ago 26-year-old Sean was set to join his welder father Brian in his Sheffield steel fabrication firm.
And before that his dreams had focused on football with ambitions to play for his beloved Sheffield United.
Instead he is now preparing for his part in "Romeo and Juliet", the story of young lovers from powerful feuding families in 16th-century Italy.
The new RSC production is vaguely "Romeo and Juliet" meets "West Side Story" - the hit musical which used the basic fighting families theme - in a modern setting.
The Bogdanov version is Shakespeare's text given a 1986 setting, complete with motorbikes and denims rather than hose and tunic more usually associated with the bard.
But this would seem to suit the Sheffield actor: "There's a lot of risk involved but I would say the idea works well on the whole.
"The way the production works would probably come as something of a surprise to some of my mates back in Sheffield - a few have found the news that I'm playing Romeo quite amusing!
"A friend from Sheffield called Paul Fairchild came down to London recently to see a match with me and had a good laugh."
Sean now lives in London with his girlfriend, Melanie Hill, who is starring in "Auf Wiedersehen Pet" as Hazel, but comes up to Sheffield whenever he can - particularly for home games.
"I would have liked to play for Sheffield United," he says wistfully, "but at the moment it's looking like I've done the right thing.
"There are often bad times when you go into acting, times when you can't get work - but I think I've made the right choice."
Mum and dad, Brian and Rita Bean, who live in Handsworth, had their doubts too.
He recalls: "They were a bit worried that I was throwing away the chance of a steady job by not following my dad, but when they saw I was serious they gave me all the support I could have wanted."
Sean got serious about acting after being taken under the wing of tutor Wyn Jones at Rotherham College of Art and Technology.
His first attempt at drama ended when he left his course after three days but she tempted him back.
A scholarship to RADA came next, and then three years in theatre and on television (including a starring role in an advert for a certain alcohol-free lager).
The way he has leaped straight into the RSC in a major role is phenomenal, but now he faces a possible two years of hard work in the role.
"I am looking forward to the first night. The important thing is not to be edgy and overawed. There is a lot of pressure on, I must admit, but I think I can cope.
"Down here it seems very different from Sheffield. People aren't as down-to-earth."
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