The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
- Walter Bagehot
Helvetia - The Beginnings
Sebastian was found in a wicker basket at Basel airport on a mild summer night in the mid nineteen-sixties, having arrived there on a plane from Manchester UK where he had been born barely six weeks earlier. Fortunately, he was taken home by a kindly woman (as it turned out, his mother), and visitors to Switzerland will notice that this happy event is still celebrated each year on the 1st of August, with jolly brass bands and elaborate firework displays...
Following an uneventful childhood, Sebastian spent his teenage years experimenting with writing, before enrolling at Basel University, where he largely managed to avoid being drawn into lectures or seminars, and instead used his time to great effect with the university's English language drama group and a theatre company he co-founded: under the stewardship of professional directors, theatertheaterEdelGrau performed his first two plays, Sentimental Breakdown... andDialog, in which he also acted the respective lead parts of, appropriately enough, Sebastian and 'He'.
Back to Britain - The 'Early Plays' and Acting
Encouraged by these first forays into theatre, Sebastian abandoned his university studies and returned to England to pursue a career in the performing arts, this time settling in London, his favourite city in the world, where he's been living ever since.
By the late nineteen eighties, Sebastian had founded a new theatre company, Aesthetics on Stage, with which he produced four of his plays on the London and Edinburgh fringe: QED, Sisters, All the World and Exit.
In 1991, after simultaneously completing a part-time degree in Social Sciences, a part-time acting course at the City Lit, and maintaining a full-time job with a frontline drugs agency in Soho, Sebastian finally enrolled for the post-graduate acting course at the Drama Studio London.
After thus 'completing' his formal acting training, Sebastian spent the rest of the nineties working mainly as a writer and actor. Together with theatre director Michael Cabot, Sebastian set up the production company Michael & Michael, which among others brought to London the British premiere of Dea Loher's award-winning playTattoo in their own translation.
Life as a Cabaret - Kissing the Goldfish and Going Solo
By the mid-nineties, Sebastian had got together with actress Charlotte Bicknell and set up Kissing the Goldfish, a music comedy act, which appeared at three Edinburgh Festivals, two Glastonburys and other festivals with performances in Asia, Australia and Europe. A break in the touring schedule for Goldfish in 1998 led to Sebastian developing his own solo show Agreeably Mad, which he performed at several London venues and at the Edinburgh Pleasance in 2000. Parts of this show were also seen at the Komedia in Brighton and at the Drill Hall London in early 2003.
In a reunion appearance, Sebastian once more joined forces with Charlie Bicknell as special guest on her aptly titled Night of the Goldfish show at the legendary Pizza on the Park venue in February 2010, which was followed by a return to Edinburgh the same year, with a midnight show at the Gilded Balloon.
First Brush with Recognition - The Love Trilogy
In 1998, Sebastian's play The Power of Lovewas shortlisted for the coveted Verity Bargate new writing award. The play was then disqualified from the competition because a highly acclaimed production at The Southwark Playhouse opened before an announcement of the winner had been made, and so rendered it ineligible as an 'unperformed' play.
The piece nevertheless ushered in a significant development for Sebastian, as it persuaded one of London's leading literary agents, Rod Hall, to represent him as a writer. Furthermore, US publisher Smith & Kraus selected no fewer than five excerpts from the play for their 1999 editions of Best Men's Monologues and Best Women's Monologues.
The Power of Love now forms part one of the Love Trilogy. The second play, Love Hurts, was developed with Arcola Theatre, where it received workshops and a rehearsed reading; it too got into the final stages of the Verity Bargate Award, in the year 2000. Time After Time is the third and final play in the series and was completed in the Summer of 2004. It reached the final ten of that year's Verity Bargate Award and remains as yet unperformed.
From Stage to Screen - Two Shorts and a Feature
In 2004, Sebastian wrote and directed his first short film,Twenty-Six Takes on Life Without Allen. With Charlotte Bicknell and Matt Emery in the leading roles and Miles Conder as Director of Photography, this 30-minute drama was the first project to be realised under the label of Sebastian's new production company Optimist Creations and was screened at festivals in Chicago, Los Angeles, Lisbon, Padua and London.
This was followed in 2006 by The Study of Bunkers & Mounds in a Temperate Climate (Relatively Speaking), which was "highly commended" in that year's TCM Classic Shorts Competition and subsequently formed part of the Official Selection at the Locarno International Film Festival in August 2007.
In 2009 Sebastian produced the award-winning Daisy's Last Stand for writer/director Gary Grant, and in October 2010 he shot his first full-length feature as a writer/director and producer: The Hour of Living was completed in February 2012 and has since been nominated for the Basel Film Prize in the 'Best Feature' category and been screened at festivals in Italy, New York and Australia.
The Next Phase - Topical Drama and an Apocalyptic Comedy...
Having taken a step away from theatre after completion of The Love Trilogy, Sebastian wrote his next three plays in quick succession: Top Story, in which two young men await the end of the world while watching TV, received its first exposure as a rehearsed reading at the ICA London in May 2008 as part of the Accidental Festival, and by June the next year casting was underway for Elder Latimer is in Love, in which a Mormon missionary falls in love with a young Muslim woman who is determined to go all the way for her faith. The play opened at Arcola Theatre on 7th September 2009 and ran there for an original four week run to rapt audience and critical response.
Sebastian's latest play Baur au Lac, set at the famous hotel of the same name on Lake Zürich unites two sisters in their sixties who attend one of their son's weddings and whose lives are brought into a whole new light by events far away from their oasis of peace. A rehearsed reading starring Susannah York took place in Spring 2010 and the play is now in development with the brand new Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, with a workshop and rehearsed reading planned for 2014, to be followed by a full production. Meanwhile, Top Story, in January 2013, became the last professional theatre production to take place at The Old Vic Tunnels, the famous underground venue beneath Waterloo Station.
2014 will see Sebastian's return to the stage as an actor when he'll be appearing alongside Tom Medcalf in The Sonneteer, which delves into the 'Fair Youth' section of William Shakespeare's Sonnets and is scheduled to premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2014, following London previews in July.
...and More Film
The follow-up project to The Hour of Living will be Soho, Night 9X9 - a Robert Altmanesque homage to Soho, in which nine characters' lives intertwine around an incident in Soho Square. After extensive development, the film is currently slated for production in 2015.
Other Work - The Novel, The Musicals and The Rest
Sebastian has written a novel, Angel, which he first published with Optimist in January 2009 and which is now available in hardback, paperback and eBook editions from online retailers worldwide.
He wrote the libretto and lyrics for Monstersound(music by David Klein, Olivier Truan and Nicky Reiss, shortlisted for the Musical of the Year Competition Copenhagen, 1994), and the libretto for the musical Alvaro's Balconyin collaboration with Mercury Workshop Award winner Jonathan Kaldor, which received a rehearsed reading at Her Majesty's Theatre in November 2007 and a first studio production one year later at the Landor Theatre.
Since 2007 Sebastian has become increasingly interested in video as an experimental art form and he continues to explore this as part of his work in crossover and new media, using not only video on its own but also in combination with dance, music and the spoken word. His first commissioned project in this vein, Now & Then, was shown as a multi-media performance at Werkstattkultur Münchenstein near Basel in Switzerland in June 2009 and by coincidence the following project was also seen in Basel, at the Vorstadttheater, in February 2010, as part of an inter-generational encounter in song and memories, entitled Gibeligääli.
Sebastian has also worked extensively as a freelance writer, director and 'content consultant' on large scale multi-media events, exhibitions, brand installations and immersive training experiences in places as varied as London, Berlin, Amsterdam, New York, Hong Kong, New Orleans, Puerto Rico and Beijing.
In Progress - Genius Planet
Since January 2009, Sebastian has been working closely with Ludger Hovestadt, Professor for Computer Aided Architectural Design (CAAD) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich) and Vera Bühlmann, who heads the Laboratory for Applied Virtuality there, on Genius Planet, a science book project which forms part of their Abundance Initiative and calls for a radical new digital energy culture and is currently earmarked for publication in 2014.