After leaving drama school in New York, David gained his first acting experience in various repertory companies.
This was how every actor learned their craft in those days, rehearsing and performing a different play every week. It was hard work but invaluable training for the profession and every well known actor of that generation went through it.
Inevitably though the time came to leave repertory theatre behind and try his hand in London. David’s first London appearance was in the premiere of C.P. Taylors Bread and Butter at the Jeanetta Cochrane theatre.
Other London roles followed, including parts in Arthur Miller’s The Price and Death of A Salesman and in Filumena, directed by Franco Zeffirelli at the Lyric Shaftesbury Avenue.
It was about this time that David appeared in Michael Blakemore’s critically acclaimed production of Arturo Ui where he played ‘Givola’ both at the Nottingham Playhouse and after its transfer to London.
The association with Blakemore was to continue at the National Theatre where David was directed by him in The Front Page, Macbeth and Grand Manoeuvres, as well as in Michael Frayn’s Make and Break at the Theatre Royal. David was also to return to the National Theatre for Saturday, Sunday Monday again directed by Franco Zefffirelli.
Although David’s career has tended to focus more in the area of television and voiceover, he has continued to perform on stage when the right opportunity presented itself.
The Bespoke Overcoat
The Bespoke Overcoat by Wolf Mankowitz opened at the New End Theatre, London, in May 2010, directed by Nina Jerome. Cast included: George Layton, David Graham, James Barron, Sam Hoye.
Fender is a lowly clerk in the warehouse of clothing manufacturers Ranting and Co. His one ambition is to have an overcoat of his own. Refused one by the cold hearted Ranting he asks a tailor friend, Morry, to make him one instead, but dies of cold before he can take delivery of it. Unwilling to give up his only desire even in death, he returns as a ghost to persuade Morry to steal him the overcoat he so coveted in life.
“Ninon Jerome’s production, performed on a set by Helen Atherton that cleverly depicts the Spitalfields streets in the dotted lines of a tailor’s pattern, is exquisitely acted by David Graham as Fender and George Layton as Morry, their tender connection almost Beckettian.
Graham, shivering at his battered desk and pleading with his crass young boss Ranting to let him have a coat on tick and, on being refused, offering up his pitiful wages to Morry, is heartbreaking. And there’s a hugely affecting warmth to their rhapsodies over poignantly meagre meals of black bread, herring or a single bagel, and their cooing together as they examine fabric samples. “
Sam Marlowe, Times
“David Graham’s performance as Fender is well-studied – dishevelled and shaking – and deeply touching. Amusingly, one of his most powerful speeches is an angry rant against ranting – the Ranting family firm that is, who fired him after 43 years of service.”
Laura Norman, What’s OnStage
“Layton and Graham make a charismatic double act. Graham in particular is outstanding. His Fender is falling apart at the seams. He is a painfully fragile, scrawny wretch who in death seeks the justice that was denied him in life. He wants one of Ranting’s coats. And around this simple tale, Mankowitz weaves a thread of wry wisdom”
John Nathan, Jewish Chronicle
Theatre Work includes:
Comedians, (Challenor), dir Kate Rowland, Liverpool Playhouse
The Price, (Gregory Solomon), dir Lou Stein, Watford Palace Theatre
The Front Page, (Diamond Louie), dir Michael Blakemore, Royal National Theatre
Grand Maneouvres, (Bertulus), dir Michael Blakemore, Royal National Theatre
Macbeth, (Messenger), dir Michael Blakemore, Royal National Theatre
Saturday, Sunday Monday, (Dr Cefercola), dir Franco Zeffirelli, Royal National Theatre
Make and Break, (Dr Horvath), dir Michael Blakemore, Theatre Royal Haymarket
Filumena, (Dr Nocella), dir Franco Zeffirelli, Lyric Shaftesbury Ave
Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?, (Abe Burrows), dir Anton Rodgers, ICA
Bread and Butter, (Alec), dir Michael Geliot, Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre