THE life of an actor can be fascinating to we ‘civilians’. First night nerves, glamorous sets, wrap parties, the conveyor belt of auditions, and life on the road, travelling from theatre to theatre.

Bradford-born actor David Roper has been a familiar face, and voice, on stage, screen and radio for nearly 50 years, since shooting to fame in popular TV sitcom The Cuckoo Waltz. He went on to be in TV dramas such as Heartbeat, Emmerdale, Taggart, New Tricks and Coronation Street, playing a policeman and Alma Baldwin’s boyfriend. In the mid-1990s he spent two years in EastEnders as Geoff Barnes, Michelle Fowler’s college tutor and lover. He was in 2009 film The Damned United and was the Bishop of Norwich in Netflix hit The Crown.

In his entertaining book An Actor’s Life For Me, David offers an insight into “what makes an actor tick, what makes an actor angry and, well, what makes an actor”.

Comprised of a collection of columns he wrote for the Brighton Argus, (he now lives on the Sussex coast), this is a witty look at the highs, lows and daily grind of a jobbing actor - the commute to London for auditions, staying at dodgy digs on tour, getting to know a new cast, saying goodbye to a cast that have become friends, heading for the pub after the curtain falls... and the frustration all actors feel when they see someone else in a role they went for and think: “That should have been me.”

David was born in 1944 in St Luke’s Hospital, where five decades later he would film ITV medical drama The Royal. “We filmed in the old maternity unit. I was born in that maternity unit. We filmed in the delivery room. I was born in that delivery room... 58 years ago to the day,” he recalls. “My mother told me about the content and layout of the place, as she remembered it. Her description corresponded exactly to the layout put back to its original form for the series.”

David gained a scholarship to Bradford Grammar School and initially went into accountancy, until acting came calling. In the 1960s he was in amateur productions at the Bradford Civic in Little Germany, with other local actors such as Duncan Preston and Bruce Bould. “The T&A’s theatre critic, the late Peter Holdsworth, was extremely complimentary about my performances in plays such as Macbeth and When we are Married, which JB Priestley himself came to see at the 40th anniversary of the Civic,” says David. “When I began life as a professional actor, after two years at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Peter took credit for ‘discovering’ me.”

This is no conventional memoir, charting David’s career from his Bradford roots. Instead, his book opens in middle-age, when he lands a role in Stephen Daldry’s acclaimed production of An Inspector Calls. “I’ve got a job! A seven month-long job!” he cries, adding: “Now this may not be cause to crack open the Cava in your neck of the woods, but in the desert that is the acting profession it’s an oasis of security.”

The first part of the book follows the UK tour of An Inspector Calls, with rehearsals, provincial towns and the perils of live theatre, not least audiences. Hacking coughs and mobile phones are actors’ bugbears, as David reveals: “You’re in the middle of your big speech, acting your socks off, when you get Tchaikovsky’s 1812 in one ear and Morse Code for SOS in the other. And people actually answer the damn things! ‘Hello sweetheart, I’m at the theatre...An Inspector Calls...that bloke from EastEnders is in it...he’s put on a bit of weight’.”

The rest of the book looks at other aspects of David’s life as an actor: unemployment, voice-overs, playing a panto villain, location filming (“always directly beneath a flight path”) and domestic life with wife Andrea and their twin boys, Harry and Jack. Along the way, he muses on everything from dentistry to fox-hunting, mulling over the minutiae of life “that fills the mind of an out-of-work actor”.

A moving chapter sees his return to Bradford, while on tour at the Alhambra. Re-tracing steps of his youth, he visits Ivegate where, as a toddler, he watched his dad marching in a VE Day parade, and stands in the doorway of the accountants he last left when he “swanned off to be an actor” in 1967. Later, he recalls running onto the pitch at Valley Parade, egged on by his mates to get the ball, to the horror of his dad and grandad.

David’s book lays bare the reality of a working actor’s life over the decades. Recalling a stint on Granada TV’s afternoon drama Crown Court, he captures a lost age of television: “In those days cameras were the size of smart cars, gliding around the studio floor like Daleks”...”You would be confronted by four cameramen swinging their lumbering machines around, aiming and firing like rear gunners”...””n the 70s actors and cameramen were friends. We would work, rest and play together. Now actors and crew rarely meet each other. I think that is sad.”

By the end of this book, I wanted to know more about David and his life, not least his time on The Crown and being reunited with Cuckoo Waltz co-star Diane Keen on BBC daytime drama Doctors. I hope the curtain rises on a sequel to this charming book.

l An Actor’s Life For Me is available on Kindle and from Amazon.