A MERCURY Theatre actor has sent his congratulations to his former friend and co-star... Oscar winner Gary Oldman.

Oldman won the Best Actor at this year’s Oscars for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the Darkest Hour.

His achievement has rekindled fond memories for David Slater who performed with him at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester in 1981.

Mr Slater, 64, said: “I started acting at school in Surrey and with the youth theatre in Leatherhead. “I trained as a professional actor for three years at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and spent the next 25 years as a professional actor.”

“I played Judas in the West End production of Jesus Christ Superstar.”

After playing Godspell in Colchester in 1978, the artistic director of the Mercury, David Buxton, asked him to do the panto that year, Puss In Boots.

Following this he appeared in several Mercury productions including Oh! What A Lovely War, where he worked with Oldman.

He said: “We were drilled by an officer from the nearby barracks and really put through our paces.

“Gary and I were the youngest in the company and David Buxton, the director, made the most the affinity between us and placed us together in most scenes.

“Gary had a good singing voice and we were paired up to play German soldiers singing Stille Nacht in the trenches in the Christmas Armistice scene.

“We were ticked off by the director one night when both of us had had to stop singing as we were laughing so much.” The pair lost touch but David said he followed Gary’s career and was delighted with his success.

David, of Witham, is just about to celebrate his 40th wedding anniversary with wife, Julie, who he met while on a national tour of Godspell.

He said: “I had to perform the evening show at the Mercury on my wedding day. The audience must have wondered why the rest of the cast showered me in confetti.

“As much as I enjoyed acting I was unhappy working away from home for long periods so I had a change of career. I now work for the probation service as a court officer.”

He has enjoyed his own success having won the Essex Theatre Guild best actor award three times - almost an Oscar.

“I do continue working in community theatre. I now get to direct and play leading roles in some great musicals. I hope to return to the Mercury before too long.”