Mutribo writes about the life of Premda Lowson, the actor, performer and contemporary storyteller who lives on the south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, Jan.
Born in London in 1952, Premda spent his early childhood years on a tough, West London council estate before moving to the more rarefied and liberating atmosphere of a 16th century pub near Oxford that his parents took over when he was thirteen years old. At the unlikely age of fifteen, he joined The Royal Navy as a stoker to see the world and did five years of service before returning to the UK and completing his training as a psychiatric nurse.
Frustrated by what he saw as antiquated and dangerous methods of treating mental illness, Premda was attracted to the counter-culture of the late 1960’s which was by then in full swing. An exposure to the ideas of R.D.Laing and his revolutionary approach to psychiatry made Premda realise that to be of any help to others he would first have to work on himself.
In the early 1970’s, he started to train in alternative, therapeutic methods offered in London and became deeply involved with the work of Veeresh and his pioneering experiments in treating addicts from a perspective of mental health rather than mental illness. Premda moved to Holland for five years to continue this work with Veeresh at his centre, the Humaniversity, developing new approaches to treating addiction and deepening self-inquiry.
By 1975, his interests in personal growth and development naturally led him to India and the burgeoning commune of young people from all over the world who had started to gather around Osho. The next ten years were spent totally engaged with the life of the commune in India and the USA, learning dynamic forms of meditation and working in a wide variety of jobs from chai wallah to electrician to heavy equipment operator. It was a period of dedicated and hard physical work, seven days a week that culminated in building a new city in the Oregon desert.
When the American commune disbanded, Premda found himself following his heart to Australia. His long experience in therapeutic work quickly brought him into close contact with the diverse acting community in Sydney. His formal training as an actor continued there for the next few years before he left the city and moved to the idyllic, far south east coast of NSW.
In this new life, he started to collaborate with the Melbourne theatre director Howard Stanley. They devised various regional performances and Premda took his popular, stand-up entertainment to Melbourne. Two of the most successful plays they worked on together were Dylan Thomas’s ‘Under Milk Wood’ and Peter Shaffer’s ‘Equus’ in which Premda played the lead role of Doctor David Dysart, a consultant psychiatrist in an old-style mental hospital. ‘Equus’ set new standards in ambitious production that had always been the hallmark of Howard Stanley’s work. The Murrah Hall on the south coast is now the home of Turning Circle that has become well-known for its excellence in producing a full programme of concerts, drama and shows.
Following the success of ‘Equus’, Premda developed a series of one-man shows that centred around the feisty scripts of Steven Berkoff. This material suited Premda’s energetic style and, as his confidence grew, he gradually started to include his own original material. The enthusiastic response from his fans demanded more of his own contemporary storytelling and led him to create the style of show that he performs today.
In early 2012, Premda was diagnosed with prostate cancer for which he received a course of radiation therapy. However, one year later, he was informed that the cancer had spread to his bones and was now inoperable. The diagnosis gave him about 18 months to live but he started to work again as a psychiatric nurse in the Bega Valley Regional Hospital, experiencing great satisfaction observing at close quarters the change that has now happened in the way that mental illness is treated.
It is now over two years since Premda received that initial diagnosis. His unique life experience has always formed the basis of the material he uses for his shows and this new situation with his health has infused his latest performance, ‘Dead Man Laughing’, with an added immediacy, authenticity and poignancy. He brings a sincerity and honesty to his storytelling that does not flinch from dealing with our last taboos around sex and death, while always insisting with great humour that it is OK to be human. He takes us with him on a roller-coaster ride through a life well-lived along a path less-travelled.
Premda said he would also love to have his email address published that he shares with his wife Jan in case any of his old friends may want to get in touch with him. One of the beautiful things around his show has meant a lot of reconnection with old friends. That email address is rainbows.henry at gmail.com
Article by Mutribo