Oxford features large on Sam West’s map. It was here that he decided to finally give acting a go, a strange irony, considering his parents are Timothy West and Prunella Scales, but nonetheless, not a career he had considered until then. Oxford is also where Sam first got up on stage and performed, where he is a patron of the Oxford Playhouse and now, where he returns as director of the acclaimed play Close The Coalhouse Door.

A strange choice for a city so far removed from the coalpits and poverty of the North East, which is exactly why Sam is hellbent on bringing it here. “Well hopefully Oxford will be a liberal and thoughtful audience,” he says quietly. “And although I am a southern ponce, it seems like a worthy history lesson.

“But I don’t come from a mining town, [Dulwich if you’re interested] so this is a rite of passage for me, because in terms of what I believe, it’s how I try to live my life and sums up everything I believe in. I’m a socialist and believe in the collective,” he continues earnestly. “I was still at school when the miners’ strike was defeated, although I was still angry about it, even then,” he says, almost mournfully.

Sam is a wonderful mix of right and left-wing sensibilities because, despite winning a place at one of the most famously privileged universities in the world, the 46-year-old was, and still is, staunchly socialist, boarding buses to campaign against the government, while residing at Lady Margaret Hall and reading English.

“I’m always suspicious of anyone who isn’t left-wing at university,” he tells me, “although Michael Gove was in my year . . . and I’m suspicious of people who aren’t socialist when they are 19, it’s just not normal. You don’t have a mortgage but you do have a brain and it’s part of being a citizen of the world. So I joined the Socialist Workers Party as a protesting thing, boycotted the union, went to the labour club, and had an active time. We used to get on buses and go on demos against student fees and clause 28,” he grins.

Between protests, Sam also discovered acting. “They had Cuppers in the fifth week of the first term. We were given £45 and told we had 45 minutes to do a play. I did three and one of them won,” he remembers. “So quite a lot of my acting career was a result of Oxford — it’s certainly where it started.

“And no, I didn’t know I was going to be an actor before then,” he pre-empts, which seems strange when it’s blatantly obvious to the rest of us: “I didn’t know I enjoyed it or that other people would enjoy me acting. I suppose there was a calling for me to be an actor, but everyone thinks actors are well-adjusted, confident people and usually they aren’t, and don’t like themselves much. I was quite shy and still am really,” he explains.

“So the idea of being someone else and playing someone else, at university, when you are shy, made up for that and people seemed to enjoy me doing it.” They still do by the way, his CV is rammed with films, plays, TV and director roles, as well as his diary.

Sam was, therefore, an obvious Playhouse patron choice: “Well, I’ve worked there twice as a student actor and when I was at Oxford I campaigned to keep the Playhouse open. It was closed down, because of funding, and in the ‘80s there was a strong move against subsidised arts and people took their revenge on that,” he says refusing to stop banging his drum for a second.

And then he turns to me and says: “This does seem to be all about me, and I don’t like talking about myself. I hope this is going to be about the play?” Yes, of course,tell me more. “Well, it’s short, punchy, sexy, moving and hard-hitting. And as some young people don’t know about the miners, I felt this stood for something that needed to be revived.

“Because it’s based on celebration and community, and steeped in experience, but it’s also funny, witty and brief with beautiful singing, a strong storyline and depicts a way of life that we’ve lost.

“So it’s a dream I’ve always had,” he says, “and yet it was out of my comfort zone, so yes I had to stick my neck on the line, but maybe that’s why it’s been exhilarating.”

Samuel West directs Alan Plater’s Close the Coalhouse Door at Oxford Playhouse from June 19-23. Box office on 01865 305305.