Born in London
Italian Jewish father, Christian mother from a Welsh family.
Born and raised in London, UK
My mother Stella was one of the first women to gain a scholarship to Oxford University.
My father Joseph fled to UK from Milan in 1940 in the face of the increasing persecution of Jews and subsequently became a world acclaimed film producer – “Billy Liar”, “A Kind of Loving”, “Darling”, “Far From the Madding Crowd”, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. The film stars of the day were our regular house guests.
Before he left Italy he won first prize in the prestigious Venice Film Festival amateur section. When they learnt he was Jewish they refused to give him the prize. His response was that one day he would come back and win first prize at the main festival.
Which he did…
Taking school friends to meet Julie Christie on the set of "Far From the Madding Crowd"
Although thoroughly committed to the teenage priorities of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, I agreed to visit a friend’s grandmother in the school holidays. She lived as a nun in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Scotland…it sounded like a bit of a laugh
Samye-Ling Tibetan Monastery, Scotland
Half way through our time there I was idly reading a classical Buddhist text, and a massive window suddenly opened in my consciousness. Like curtains parting, a veil disappearing. In an instant I unhesitatingly recognised, felt and understood the core truth of this document – that we are all living in a very small version of reality, and have forgotten that this is so.
That experience effectively set the course for the rest of my life. There was no possibility of going back
My Gap Year
During my gap year after school I travelled overland to India and Nepal, passing through Persia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I also discovered, in a second-hand bookshop in Cecil Court, London, a book that would be my beacon in the theatre for the next 20 years. “Towards a Poor Theatre” by Jerzy Grotowski
Along with the work of Peter Brook, I was deeply inspired and relieved by the realisation that theatre could be a spiritual path
Bristol University Drama Department
Three wonderful years of study, exploration, creating performances, writing and directing short films and TV programmes.
I was obsessive about bringing the depth of Grotowski’s vision to everything I did.
After graduating I obtained a British Council grant to go to Poland and was accepted at Grotowski’s Teatr Laboratorium for a study period.
Grotowski - Poland
Grotowski had by this time shocked the theatre world by announcing he was finished with performances and was conducting wild, radical, post-theatre research into consciousness. We pushed the extremes of physical activity, often out in nature, and for days and nights with hardly any sleep, to generate intense ‘altered state’ experiences of openness and connectedness. Unforgettable moments are burnt into my cellular memory, as well as the first major understanding of the gateways that open through the body, and how thinking often gets in the way of more direct experience.
THE LEAP – 1
Back in England a friend who authored the landmark book on Grotowski mentioned his sister group, based in Lausanne, Switzerland. She had heard they were creating a new company. Three days later I jumped on a train to Lausanne and arrived the day they were holding auditions…
Theatre Onze, Lausanne
Three years of intensive actor-training with an international group directed by Jacques Gardel, based on Grotowski’s methodology. We took nine months to create each performance, and toured in Switzerland, Italy and the UK. This work became the basis for my subsequent 20 years as a director and acting teacher
THE LEAP – 2
One evening in Geneva I went to see Adama Drama, a master drummer from Upper Volta performing a djembe drum solo concert. It was his first time out of Africa. As I was already a keen amateur percussionist, his performance blew my mind, and so, when the Theatre Onze work abruptly finished, I found his address, asked if I could come study with him, and left for six months in West Africa
Studying the djembe in the Ivory Coast
I lived with Adama and his family in semi-primitive conditions. He taught me every day, and after one month I became able to be his accompanist at marriage and baptism ceremonies. We were usually the only men amongst up to 100 women. We provided the fuel for their singing and ecstatic dancing.
My hands were cut to shreds, the women cried for me, and I learnt the very challenging discipline of being a metronome, an anchor for Adama, so he could fly. Even among African drummers he was one of the very best.
Afterwards he came to Switzerland again and we gave concerts, on stages and in the streets.
My dancer partner and I subsequently gave workshops and demonstrations based on what we leant in Africa, and I also taught djembe drumming and made an instructional video.
The Theatre Years
I brought the radical Grotowski-based actor work to the UK, and for those who were ready for its intensity, its call to a totally embodied authenticity felt really inspired. I created a company, The Performance Research Project, and as in Switzerland, we worked for at least nine months on each production. I gave many workshops around the UK, and in the US, and also taught at leading drama schools, including The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. I felt excited and honoured to bring such ‘experimental’ work into the heart of the British theatre establishment.
Theatre as a spiritual path
All the work was focused around the exploration of the most open body/mind states the actor could access. The ‘zone’ as it is called in sports. We researched many different practices and disciplines, taking from each the elements that enable the most consistent and the most complete opening in the actor, so that s/he becomes a vessel, a channel for the worlds of text, story or myth to become fully embodied.
I found that I could sit for hours watching actors and see/feel exactly how and where their energy was not flowing and often how to help them become more free.
In parallel, my wider path of searching and exploring continued. I trained in Psychosynthesis in London, then Zen meditation for two years with John Garrie Roshi and there were at least two more LEAPS
THE LEAP – 3
In 1985 I saw the Kodo drummers from Japan perform in London. I was so inspired by their work that I went backstage and asked if I could study with them in Japan. Eventually they agreed to open their doors
Three months with Kodo on Sado Island, Japan
This brought a whole new meaning to physical intensity and exhaustion. We started each day in freezing February with a 10 km run, and that was the easy part. The drumming was unbelievably strenuous, and for at least two months I was in serious pain until….some kind of glorious shift occurred and little by little it seemed that, as in the martial arts, my hara centre opened more, the chi energy moved more freely, and miraculously the pain all but disappeared, giving way to hours of metronomic group drumming in a blissful state of individual and group flow.
Ready for morning practice on Sado Island in Japan…
After Kodo, I met UK based Japanese master-drummer Joji Hirota, and became his accompanist in concerts throughout the UK and Europe, including at the WOMAD festival.
I also formed a percussion trio ‘River of Time’ and we performed and recorded in the UK.
In 1989 I heard by chance about a talk in London by Abraham Kawai’i, a Hawaiian spiritual teacher, known as a Kahuna (Keeper of the Knowledge). He spoke about and demonstrated a form of bodywork unlike anything I had ever witnessed. I booked a private session with him, and one month later journeyed to Hawaii, to begin what would become a two-year apprenticeship
HAWAIIAN KAHUNA BODYWORK
One of the oldest spiritual traditions we know of. The bodywork was performed at initiatory transition times in a person’s life, often by priests in the temple. Abraham spoke of it as being able to restore/transform at a cellular level.
I became a practitioner, attracting a wide-ranging clientele to my UK home and I ran two one-year training programmes.
The work was immensely powerful and greatly increased my ability to feel into a person’s energetic structure, as well as work from a high energy, completely empty and receptive state, as we did in the theatre rehearsal room.
Leading Personal Development Workshops
I ran many personal development workshops, retreats and year-long programmes during the years 1990-2000, alone and with colleagues such as Mary Aver and Richard Olivier. The three of us led week long ritual retreats in the UK, Ireland and later in Israel. The latter culminated in a 28-hour grief ritual in the desert.
TRANSITION INTO EXECUTIVE DEVELOPMENT
For the opening of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, Richard Olivierdirected Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’. I created and performed a drumming score for the production.
It was during this period that Richard, with close support from William Ayot and myself, started to birth a new form of leadership development, using Shakespeare stories as leadership case studies. We got visionary support from The Cranfield School of Management, worked with many management teams, and called the emerging work ‘Mythodrama’
The three of us became more and more skilled in the work and more and more in demand.
And we together took a big LEAP in 2001 by more or less departing from the theatre, and creating an arts-based leadership consultancy, Olivier Mythodrama Associates. We started in one bare room with a table, one assistant, and one computer in Fulham, West London.
It was a great adventure. We ran many of our UK programmes at The Globe Theatre in London, even using the stage itself for some sessions. The work was far ahead of its time, brilliantly conceived and executed, and we achieved rapid worldwide recognition and success. Within five years we had trained a whole team of presenters in this unique methodology, were a 25 strong team of staff and presenters in a two floor office in London, and were working at very senior levels on all continents in both the private and the public sectors
In 2013 I left OMA to form my own consultancy, CORE PRESENCE in order to focus more exclusively and in depth on Presence and Innovation topics, and have continued to work with Executives around the world.
I teach at the IMD Business School in Lausanne. In 2017 I gave a keynote address to 1500 Chief Executives at The President’s Summit in Copenhagen, and in 2018 I launched my first three-month online ‘Transformational Coaching’ course
Working with Gary
There has been a great joy for me in finding such an exceptional partner in Gary to return to what I see as a pure essence of creative work. We become as empty and as receptive as possible ‘in all our bodies’, within a high frequency energy state, something that we know from many years of practice, and yet which is constantly unfolding. New material starts to ‘download’ itself through us and between us, as we become channels. Until such point as structuring the material towards a coherent performance piece becomes a natural step.
As Grotowski once said: “Between the two shores of my precision I allow the river, which arises out of the authenticity of my experience, to advance, slowly or rapidly”
Studying in the mystical tradition
In 2013 I met spiritual teacher Thomas Hübl and began an intensive five-year study period with him. I helped him launch his Mystical Principles online work and the initiation of The Pocket Project for Collective and Ancestral Trauma Integration.
This was one of the richest learning periods of my life. It helped me take everything I have ever studied and practiced to dimensions I could not have previously imagined.
I learnt a completely new integration of the opening of higher levels of consciousness and work with the darkest, most wounded parts of ourselves, individual and collective.
I use all my previous skills and experience to translate and bring this work coherently and accessibly into the world of CEO’s, changemakers and leaders in all fields, with transformational impact.
I am more committed than ever to contributing transformational work in all fields.
I continue to work with the leaders and organisations who are ready for paradigm changing development.
I believe the work with collective and ancestral trauma integration will grow and grow as I see how much people resonate with it, and it is already beginning to enter more mainstream culture. In this period I ran ongoing groups in the UK, US, Israel and Palestine.
With Scilla Elworthy we continued to move towards our vision of large groups of women and men coming together to embody the Restoration of the sacred Feminine and the sacred Masculine working together, and with my colleague Joey Walters I developed a programme called “Women and Men Healing and Awakening Together”
I love to use my skills to give keynote speeches to many audiences worldwide, in the context of ‘Activating our Highest Possibilities’……
THE TIME IS NOW
Leader as Healer
During this period in which COVID-19 has landed in our world with such far-reaching impact, in a way none of us could have foreseen. I have birthed the next iteration of my work – Leader as Healer.
During the summer of 2021 the IMD Business School made six short videos about the theme, and hosted a live webinar.
The book was published in Europe and the US in the spring of 2022
This is the US launch day webinar, hosted by Michael Watkins (author of “The First 90 Days”), with special guest Gene Woods, CEO of Atrium Health
I deliver the training programme in person and online, speak at conferences, and plan an open programme to follow.
It speaks to the leadership that is needed now, more urgently than ever in these increasingly dangerous and troubled times of war in Ukraine and looming climate and energy crisis. Leadership that recognises and breaks the normalisation of ‘absence’ and disconnection, and brings an integration of thinking, feeling and sensing, and the ability to rest in the deeper field of unified consciousness.
In January 2023 I launched a new platform, and became co-founder and Programme Director of MATRIX DEVELOPMENT
In May 2023 my book won Business Book of the Year at the Business Book Awards
I have since been interviewed twice for The BBC World Business Report