JMC's first job in theatre was as an actor with punk troupe Wet Theatre Company, appearing in three plays written by Chris Ward. He played various parts, including a black-shited anarchist and French actor Michel Simon, in the Jean Vigo bio-drama Love's a Revolution and was a violent Soldier in Amphibious Babies (both Swan Pub Theatre, 1984) and a punk faith healer, Samurai, in Cat Food (Metropolitan Pub Theatre, 1984). For the last, he received excellent notices. In The Tribune, Barney Barnsley wrote "The demonic Samurai (James Charlton) steals the show in his fake leopard skin and plumed hat, as he comes leaping on stage, scattering words of warning about his extra-terrestrial powers..."
After his initial acting jobs with the company, JMC continued his connection with Ward, directing two revivals of plays by Chris Ward at the White Bear Theatre, Amphibious Babies in 1994 and Plastic Zion in 2006.
Amphibious Babies cast included: Caroline Burns Cooke, Tom Hayes, Keith Lee-Castle.
Plastic Zion cast: Nigel Croft-Adams, Caroline O'Hara, Minouche Kaftel, Tim McFarland and Ben Richardson.
JMC's introduction to Plastic Zion, published in the programme of the White Bear revival, can be read here.
In 2009, JMC produced and played Roger Fry in Chris Ward's short film What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?, co-starring with Siobhan Fahey, Clive Arrindel and Donny Tourette.