You'd think actor Mick Innes might be warier of staging another one-man show at the Basement Theatre.

Last time he was there, in 2013, Innes came perilously close to joining the list of those who quite literally died on stage. What's more, there's video showing the exact moment when it felt as if a rubber band had snapped in his head and Innes went blank - for a moment or two - and then continued to the end of his performance.

"I paused at a place where I wouldn't normally place and looked up toward the ceiling then I carried on."

He doesn't know if it was adrenalin that kept him alive through the two strokes and heart attack he experienced that night and during the following two days, but the 63-year-old figures he must have hardy constitution to have survived - especially when you consider his previous transgressions.


Innes can list them without pausing for breath: cigarettes, alcohol and drugs; nine detoxes, one ICT admission, three "drunk tanks" in police cells, one admission to a psychiatric ward and the break-up of two marriages plus a long-term relationship.

But good things have come out of all that: a son, a daughter and two grandchildren as well as a desire to live a better life. So, Innes is back with his next solo show Zen Dog - Satori. Satori means "sudden enlightenment" which is what he reckons happened after his near-death experience.

Since then, he hasn't touched any of his previous chemical companions, preferring to find joy in everyday simplicity. Innes pauses - impish smile and mischievous twinkle in his eyes - and adds he doesn't want to sound "holier than thou" but what happened to him was the beginning of a new life; a turning point.

He says he's not proud of his past but is proud of the person he's striving to become and wants to share it in his new show. He loves the Basement Theatre - its sense of community and heart - so it makes sense to share his stories there.

"For me, it came down to a question: did I want to live or did I want to die? I didn't want to die so the show's about me being honest about my life because maybe - just maybe - I might be helping someone else to do the same."

It's doubtful, however, that many will have lived quite as colourful life as Innes. Born and raised in the South Island, Innes left school as soon as he could; he thinks he probably has ADHD and, in the 1950s and 60s, school was no place for "a rebel without a clue".

He drifted through his teens and 20s, went to Australia, fell into acting and has rarely been out of work but never completely "in the money". He takes a zen attitude to that: something always comes up.

Innes is lucky like that and even luckier to have lived to continue his journey. The night of his stroke, during the final performance of Zen Dog, he stepped off stage and felt immense tiredness. He went home, felt no better on Sunday and told his beloved mum, Dulcie, who was staying with him. She advised him to make himself sick to see if he then felt better - better out than in, as the saying goes - so he did and struggled on.

(His beloved cat, Chips Rafferty, was a constant companion staying closer than usual and keeping a weather eye on Innes. Chips Rafferty now lives with Dulcie in Christchurch; Innes says he needed to know the cat had a safe home if anything ever happened to him. "I go down there now and he looks at me as if to say, 'it's very nice to see you, but please leave me here'. He knows where he's got it good...").

Innes is the voice of Hammer Hardware so, Monday afternoon, went to do his voiceover and the producer, Monique, took one look at him, declared he looked "poorly" and packed him off to the doctors in a taxi.

"No, I wouldn't have gone to the doctors if she hadn't made me," he admits. "The doctor ran a blood test, I think, and sent me home. Then I got a telephone call that afternoon to say I was having a heart attack and an ambulance was on its way.

"I smoked my last cigarette as I was waiting for the ambulance to come and take me to hospital and I haven't touched another one since. I don't care if who's drinking or smoking as long as it's not me.

"If I'd kept drinking and smoking after what happened, well, I would have been a complete tosser because it would have meant that I hadn't learned anything."

What: Zen Dog - Satori
Where & when: Basement Theatre, Tuesday - Saturday