THE famous old chestnut of showbusiness is “Never work with children or animals”.

But Darwen-based director and actor Guy Hargreaves has made a career around doing just that.

He has been involved in youth theatre for the last 12 years, working as associate artist of The National Youth Theatre (NYT) for the past eight, and he also works with the community and education department at The Lowry, Salford Quays.

His latest body of work, a production of Philip Pullman's award-winning epic fantasy, His Dark Materials, is currently being brought to life at The Lowry.

Guy hand-picked the show's young actors and coached them.

“I found all the young actors, auditioned them, and ran workshops with them. My job was generally getting them up-to-speed before rehearsals started,” said Guy.

His role with The Lowry also extends to everything from story-telling sessions for under fives to drama workshops with teenagers.

"My job is very varied, which is one of the reasons I love it so much," said Guy.

"One day I can be working with five-year-olds. We look at LS Lowry's paintings in the gallery and then make-up bits of drama around them.

“Another day I can be working with a group of occupational therapists from Salford University. Sometimes, although they're adult professionals, the workshops are very similar.”

Guy, 37, was born and raised in Bury. He moved to London to train at Guildhall School of Music and Drama and moved back to Lancashire in 2002.

Last summer his NYT production of Tory Boyz at the Soho Theatre in London achieved critical acclaim and sold out it’s entire run. His directing work in the North West also includes directing young actors in Mancunian romantic comedy Get Over It and fairytale Whose Shoes?

Guy said children are often easier to deal with than adults in showbiz.

“I don't find it very difficult working with young people at all,” he said.

“Young people are generally very honest about how they feel so if they're bored they let you know it. I prefer that to be the case rather than people nodding and pretending to understand what you're saying when really they're bored rigid.

“Children don't judge themselves too harshly either. They tend not to over-think about things. They just want to get on with it. They're not always thinking ‘Is this going to affect my career?' Is it going to make a difference to my life?’ They live in the moment and that's great.”

Surely there must be a downside to working with teenagers?

“If you're in a school where you've been brought in to work with them and it's not their choice to be there you can sometimes encounter a bit of attitude,” Guy admitted.

“That's sometimes quite hard to get over. My policy is to play the fool.

“I work with the attitude as though it's a choice they've made and say ‘That’s an interesting choice’.

“I make something of it rather than getting all annoyed because that's what they want, to get a rise out of you.

“All in all I've not got much to moan about. Teenagers have loads of energy and they're not as cynical as grown-ups. They don’t put too much pressure on themselves or judge themselves too harshly either."

Although father-of-two Guy often finds half the neighbourhood's children playing in his garden, he doesn't take his work home.

“My kids are five and seven years old and I don't tend to get involved with their games and try to teach drama at home.”

As well as directing and running workshops, Guy keeps his own acting career on the go. He has worked as an actor at The Royal Exchange, The Octagon in Bolton and Lancaster’s Dukes Theatre. His television credits include Coronation Street, Mark’s Home Videos, City Central and BBC drama Survivors.

“It's all about trying to balance my career,” he said. “I balance my acting work with teaching and working with young people. I'm really lucky because acting is a very insecure job. I'm in two minds as to whether I’d like my own children to be actors because it's incredibly competitive and you're often sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.”

Along with Guy’s involvement in the youth theatre, he is also lead creative artist on a joint TDA (Training Development Agency) and British Council initiative to reinvigorate and enliven the teaching of foreign languages in secondary schools.

l See His Dark Materials at The Lowry, Salford Quays, from April 23 to 26. For tickets call 0870 787 5793 or visit