Henley is famous for many things, but the latest fad must surely be acting, writes Bill Bowder.
The number of people in our town who want to make acting their profession might surprise readers. From Henley College to Acorn Music Theatre Company, from Henley Players and HAODS to Act Now, Henley Fringe and most of the schools in and around the town, acting seems to be the new rowing.
One place where Thespian ambitions were evident last week was at rehearsals for the Henley Players’ latest play, Hugh Leonard’s adaptation of Great Expectations, which starts its four day run at the Kenton Theatre on Wednesday, October 23.
Guillaume Gougeon, 15, who plays the young Pip, said: “I’m applying to the Brit School in London, which specialises in drama for a full time A level year.”
Guillaume, from Henley, who acts with Acorn on Mondays, is sharing the role with Seamus Bringmann.
Henley resident Charlie McMann, aged 20, who is currently taking a gap year, has a walk-in part but said: “I want to act professionally or be in a profession. I hope to be employed by the time this article appears.”
Charlie, who attended Gillotts and The Henley College, said he had been acting with Acorn for nearly half his life.
Meanwhile Harry Patrie, aged 17, who plays the “very upbeat, optimistic, friendly” Herbert Pocket, said he had been acting since he was 10. This is his first time with Henley Players though he’s acted a lot with the Acorn Theatre. He lives in Henley and he, too, wants to act professionally.
Olivia Manning, aged 14, who shares the role of young Estella with Annabel Marlow, said: “I’ve been in about five films and TV programmes. I was in Oliver! in the West End for a year when I was between 10 and 11, three days a week. I was one of the workhouse kids.”
Sally Rolandson, who raises a disdainful nose as the cold-hearted Estella, is a Henley resident who works in administration and has sung in many musicals. This will be her third play with Henley Players.
She said: “The quality I would single out in rehearsals is the attention to detail.”
The young actors were rehearsing with established actors such as Jan Selkirk who plays Miss Havisham.
She said: “I adore the story. It’s my favourite Dickens. Miss Havisham is such an iconic character. She is frightening but also haunting, almost part ghostly, somewhere between life and death.”
lGreat Expectations plays at the Kenton Theatre from Wednesday, October 23 to Saturday, October 26 at 7.30pm with a matinée on the Saturday. For tickets call (01491) 575698 or visit www.kentontheatre.co.uk