‘Great to be back in Eastbourne’

High Society at The Congress Theatre Eastbourne.'(L to R): Michael Praed, Sophie Bould, Katie Lee and Keiron Crook.'June 18th 2013 E25324P

High Society at The Congress Theatre Eastbourne.'(L to R): Michael Praed, Sophie Bould, Katie Lee and Keiron Crook.'June 18th 2013 E25324P

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“It’s great to be back in Eastbourne, I just adore this place.”

That’s the view of a passionate Michael Praeda who is starring in the musical High Society.

“There’s a wonderful vibe here and it’s great to sit on the seafront and take in the relaxed atmosphere,” he told the Herald as he prepared for first night.

A new production of this Cole Porter classic opened at the Congress Theatre on Tuesday and continues through to Saturday.

Michael, who stars as Dexter Harven, has mixed memories of his schooling in Eastbourne - from the age of eight boarding at Ascham Prep to his late teens at Eastbourne College.

“There were some harsh lessons to learn at prep school,” explained Michael who had been taken back to England for his education after living his early years with his family in Iran.

He vividly remembers an over-zealous disciplinary system which brought numerous canings which, legal at the time, left him abused and vulnerable.

“One teacher said this is going to hurt me more than you. But that was rubbish - it hurt like hell.”

Looking back he said lessons had to be learned very quickly but happily life at Eastbourne College eventually proved rosier where he flourished in both sporting and academic circles.

More strict discipline wasn’t welcome but Michael later admitted it had helped him develop the self-control necessary to maintain a professional career.

His love for acting soon became apparent and thanks to the active encouragement of teacher John Walker and head Simon Langdale he was able to pursue his dreams - ending up at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

He sprung to fame playing Robin of Loxley in the 1980s TV classic Robin of Sherwood and has never looked back, with an impressive and ever-increasing list of TV, film and stage credits to his name. And that name.

Well he was born Michael David Prince but after discovering the actors’ trade union Equity already had on such Michael Prince among its members he picked Praed out of a telephone book and that became his stage name.

As he prepared for Tuesday night’s opening Michael said he always look forward to coming back to Eastbourne but stopped short of calling it home.

Sadly those prep school canings were still hurting - 45 years on.

Michael is pictured with Sophie Bould, Katie Lee and Keiron Crook at the Devonshire Park tennis week.

High Society continues until Saturday at The Congress - call 01323 412000.