A graduate in Theatre Studies from the University of Warwick as well as being the holder of a Diplôme d’études théâtrales from the Université de Paris III (Sorbonne Nouvelle), Mike began his career in the theatre whilst working on his (unfinished) doctorate at Universite de Paris X (Nanterre) where he wrote his Master’s thesis while teaching at theatre school at the Théâtre des Amandiers – Nanterre – under Patrice Chereau. From there he joined the UK’s National Student Theatre Company for a season with Nicolas Broadhurst, Declan Donellan and Simon Stokes.
While working in Paris, Mike met with French author Jean Genet who after a series of meetings agreed that Bernard Frechtman’s translation of Genet’s early work Haute Surveillance was not up to scratch and via his agent Paule Thevenin, gave permission for a new translation to be written by Downey for the Edinburgh Festival. Subsequently to that Downey wrote and performed a one man show In Search of Artaud for the French Institute at the Edinburgh Festival in, which transferred to the Gate Theatre in London.
Stints at the Atelje 212 in Belgrade, the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry as well as the touring company Bac To Bac Theatre which was the UK’s only TIE company performing in French led to Downey’s departure for Munich where he directed a wide variety of theatre the Gasteig Kulturzentrum, the Munchner Kammerspeiele, the Studiotheater im Fuchsbau, Studiotheater auf der Alabama, the Theater Rechts der Isar and the Studiotheater.
He directed the European Premiere of South African stage hit Woza Albert by Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema and Barney Simon in Munich, which toured for the next two years around Germany and Europe. Over a six year period Downey directed and produced over dozen plays ranging from the World Premiere of Dalt Wonk’s New Orleans musical play about slavery in the deep South A Bitter Glory at the Gasteig Kulturzentrum; Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane, Harold Pinter’s Betrayal.
While in Munich he adapted Raymond Chandler’s novel and Howard Hawk’s film into a two man show performed at the Theater Rechts der Isar to huge critical acclaim the play going on to run for over a year.
Mike’s current involvement in theatre is limited to his work with the Isango Ensemble in the Khayelitsha Township near Cape Town. From the beginning the company has drawn its performers from the previously disadvantaged townships surrounding the city. Isango creates performances with a strong South African flavour by re-imagining Western theatre classics within a South African or township setting and by creating new work reflecting South African heritage. Mike is part of the international board of Isango and has worked with Golden Bear winning director Mark Dornford May and musical director Pauline Malefane on a number of award winning films including Breathe – Umphefumlo an adaptation of Puccini’s La Boheme; Son of Man which premiered in Sundance in and Berlinale competition entry Noye’s Fludde – Unogumbe made to celebrate Benjamin Britten’s centenary.