TEENAGE actors hold the key to the success of Henley Players’ ambitious £6,000 production of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations being staged at the Kenton Theatre next month.
Rehearsals for the play, which starts its Wednesday to Saturday run on October 23, began in June and the eight youngsters, most from the Acorn Music Theatre in Rotherfield Greys, have been covering for each other during their summer holidays. Toby Marlow, 18, has been in theatre, TV and film. He is the adult Pip in the play, with his sister, Annabel as the young Estella and their dad Andy as Pip’s mentor Wemmick.
Kate Lindsey, who co-directs Hugh Leonard’s adaptation of the Dickens classic with Jill Richardson, said: “They bring a whole new dynamic of theatre for me; it is very challenging, a huge undertaking.”
“They are very refreshing, they are so keen and want to know if they have done it right. I can’t tell you how polite and well mannered they are, they are a real credit and are very good on stage.”
“The thing about having a family in a play is when one goes on holiday, they all go on holiday, you lose three in one go. But the others were very good at standing in for them and now everyone is fully on board,” Kate said.
Rehearsing with his sister and father was great, Toby said. “Acting with Dad, you really have to focus on the scene. If we ever had a disagreement, which we won’t, you put that aside. I haven’t seen daddy acting before and that was really fun. He has a much better Cockney accent than I have.”
Toby’s first lead part was The Grumpy Sheep in the Christmas play at Henley’s Rupert House school. “The sheep is grumpy because Jesus is getting all the attention at Bethlehem. I was good at grumpy. I was five-ish at the time.”
By the age of nine he wanted to act professionally. He joined the child acting agency, Abacus for film work until he started his GCSEs at Abingdon School. His films included Miss Marple, filmed locally, Ben Hur filmed in Morocco and Senseless, filmed in Glasgow. At school he was the MC in the musical Cabaret, Simon in Hay Fever and Candide in Candide. He used the 45- minute bus journey to school to learn his parts.
Annabel, Toby’s sister, is 14 and showed the family flair for drama (her grandfather trained as an actor and her great grandmother taught speech and drama) when she made her teacher cry during her recital of Sissy Jupe’s speech from Hard Times at her school speech day at Queen Anne’s School. “When my teacher told me she was tearing up I was happy because I had made my character believable,” she said.
As the young Estella in Great Expectations, she has to be haughty. “I am good at haughty. I give people evil looks. I imagine how to be really mean, though I am not really like that and I don’t know anyone like that.”
Asked what she wanted to do as a career she said: “I want to be an actor and a singer, ‘cos it’s fun. I love an audience.”
Andy Marlow, 51, auditioned for the part of Wemmick after co-director Jill Richardson spotted him when he collected his children after rehearsal.
“I am a professional musician and play the guitar in the English Guitar Quartet, but I hadn’t acted since school,” he said.
Kate, who is chair of Henley Players until its AGM on Monday said: “He was very self-deprecating, but he is good. He is turning out to be very useful to the group.”