‘My first acting lesson was on a 1940s market stall in the East End’

In those days the convention was for theatre to last at least two hours, so I’d start with In the Penal Colony, have a break, change make-up, wash the blood away and get ready for Metamorphosis

It more than covered the costs, and paved the way for future projects, including my decision to stage and direct Metamorphosis in Paris, New York, Los Angeles, London, Sydney, Tel Aviv and Tokyo. 

Are you a saver or a spender?

I’m definitely a saver. I used to see my mum walk all the way to the shops and back to save the bus fare and that stuck with me. 

It’s also safer in my line of work to save, certainly rather than investing in the stock market, which is fraught with dangers when you work for yourself. Of course, I invested in my plays, renting space and putting them on, but that was about it for a time. 

Have you invested in property?

I was living in a flat in Islington. One day, the estate agent said the owners wanted to sell the whole house but no one wanted it because they had “picky tenants” living on the top floors. 

They were protected old people and no one wanted it with them there, and you couldn’t kick them out. But for me it was a wonderful opportunity, and sure enough within a few years these “picky tenants” had all died off, so I had the run of the place. 

Where do you now live?

I have always been committed to east London where my first lessons were learned, and that’s where I now live. Being from here, having family from here, taught me a lot about values. 

In my period it was a very exciting place. I went to an excellent grammar school, there were two or three boys’ clubs and there were cinemas on every corner. It was a very poor area, but very exciting and dramatic. It was the people, whose only joy was seeing each other and communicating, dining together, coming round, playing cards. All our relatives lived within one square mile. 

It was a tremendous place of socialisation and comradeship and you learn from those things. 

What is your biggest indulgence? 

Swimming, or rather a dip somewhere on the French riviera, and Deliveroo. What is incredible is the East End has the most astonishing variety of food outlets in the whole of London. You can get anything within half an hour. You can get Chinese, Tibetan, Russian, French, Indian, Japanese Sushi, it’s incredible.

Signed copies of Steven Berkoff’s autobiography Free Association and My Life In Food are currently available from his website www.steven.berkoff.com for £11.99.