I was born in a showman’s caravan in a layby on the A1. My dad was the ringmaster of a little touring circus that used to travel round the North of England in the 1950s. Mum was a trapeze artist and contortionist. Everyone in the circus used to work putting up the Big Top and doing all the jobs around the ring as well as performing in the shows and I learned at a very early age that working in the performing arts is VERY hard work. As a small boy I used to appear in a from a transposition cabinet in the show finale, and was presented as ‘Xanadu, the little Indian Prince’. I hated putting on all that dark face makeup.
Unfortunately the circus went bankrupt and so my family moved into a small rented flat, and Dad got a job in stage management at the local theatre in Yorkshire. Mum took in laundry and made costumes. Every Saturday night I sat in the wings of the theatre watching productions and was soon engaged to perform small parts and make the tea. My parents found it difficult to make ends meet and encouraged me to sit for a scholarship to a boarding school in Sussex. I won a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital but I hated the school and used to run away regularly. The only thing that I enjoyed was the school Drama Society and I played all the women’s parts as I was small and quite pretty as a boy.
After I left the school and a period of time working in a theatrical café in London’s West End, I won a place at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and trained for the classical theatre, joining Salisbury Playhouse two years later as an acting ASM and gaining experience of three-weekly repertory theatre.
However I couldn’t ignore the call of the life of a travelling entertainer. As soon as I could, I acquired an old lorry and set off for Europe to learn the busking trade on the streets of Europe. A number of years later, I returned to Britain well on the way to perfecting the Travelling Show that I present today.
The theatre trailer that is my stage is called ‘Theatre Royal’ (with Queen Victoria’s gracious permission). It is based on a toy I used to play with as a boy. Pollock’s ‘Twopenny-Coloured’ cardboard toy theatre was a favourite of many Victorian children as well as of mine and is still available to buy today. Thousands of children have played with that toy theatre and, like me, have learned to love the theatre through putting on miniature shows. As a child I promised myself that I would one day have a bigger version, and I have made that dream come true for me.
In 2015, Mr Alexander was approached by award-winning film-maker Rhys Edwards to agree to be the subject of a documentary about his life. The resulting documentary is now available as a DVD with original music composed by Maff Potts and performed by Mr Alexander’s Ragtime Band. The film charts the progress of the travelling show through one summer at various events and also explores the fascinating backstage and showman’s life of this fascinating entertainer, working and living on the roads of Britain.