Sunday, 18 March 2018

Gabriel, 15, has a bright future on the big screen

A SCHOOLBOY actor from Sonning Common will have the thrill of seeing his work on the

A SCHOOLBOY actor from Sonning Common will have the thrill of seeing his work on the big screen later this summer - when it is shown as part of the Henley Fringe and Film Festival.

Gabriel Senior, 15, is a drama scholar at Leighton Park School in Reading who has recently acted in two feature films due for release in the UK.

The first of these, Desert Dancer, has already hit cinema screens worldwide, with a British distribution deal for a possible autumn release currently being negotiated.

But it is Gabriel’s second film, Containment, that is coming to Henley in just under two months’ time.

Ahead of its national release in mid-September, it will be screened at the Regal Picturehouse at 8.30pm on Saturday, September 5.

The debut feature of London-based director Neil Mcenery-West, Containment tells the story of an artist who wakes one morning to discover that the doors and windows of his apartment have been sealed shut.

When a neighbour smashes through their adjoining wall, the artist and his new ally join forces with others in the block to defend themselves from the sinister figures outside.

But they soon discover that the greatest danger lurks within - a virus of unknown origin, and of which any one of them could be a carrier.

Gabriel plays Nicu, the introverted but curious younger brother of Sergei, an antagonistic youth.

Nicu initially appears to live in a world of his own. He does not speak, but his watchful eyes take in everything - from the escalating tension between the residents and the forces outside to his older brother’s growing capacity for violence.

An independently produced thriller, other stars of Containment include Lee Ross (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Louise Brealey (Sherlock), Sheila Reid (Benidorm, Brazil), Andrew Leung (Lilting), and rising theatre stars Pippa Nixon and Andrew Postlethwaite.

Naturally enough, Gabriel and his family are excited that his film is being shown virtually on their doorstep.

His mother, Kathryn Turner, said: “As a musician myself, it has been great to see Gabriel find his own creative outlet and for his talent to be recognised at this level.”

Gabriel first began performing at the Henley Youth Festival, where he created an outstanding performance of Michael Jackson songs.

This eventually led him to audition for the West End show Thriller Live, based on the music of Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five. Although he narrowly missed out on the role, Kathryn says the experience was enough to convince him that he was on the right track, having originally started out as a singer and dancer.

“He got through to the last two, and from that he knew that acting was what he wanted to do,” she said.

Gabriel’s own dance background had earlier helped him make his big screen debut in Desert Dancer.

This tells the true story of a young self-taught dancer in Iran, Afshin Ghaffarian, who risked his life to pursue his dream of being a dancer - despite a nationwide ban imposed by the authorities.

Gabriel plays the lead role of Afshin as a child. Shot on location in Morocco, this first feature film experience only added to his desire to work in the film industry.

“He had a fantastic time on set,” said Kathryn. “They’re hoping it will come out over here. It had a worldwide release in other territories but it hasn’t come to England yet.”

Asked if Gabriel had needed any special training to play a dancer, Kathryn said: “It was an innate thing. He had it in him but he never had any training as such. He’s just got a natural talent.”

As a drama scholar at the Quaker-run Leighton Park School, Gabriel has the opportunity to work on short films, stage productions and develop his musical talents.

He has been on the books of Henley-based talent agent Jo Southwell since 2009.

An actor and director herself, Jo is well known locally as the founder and artistic director of the Henley Fringe and Film Festival, which has been running since 2003.

Understandably enough, her assessment of Gabriel’s prospects is glowing.

She told the Standard: “I have been honoured to work with Gabriel since he was in primary school. When he auditioned for my agency I was captivated by his Michael Jackson piece.

“He is a natural performer with an honest performance, sensitivity and really talent. He has the drive and ambition to make it in the industry. He has set his sights on RADA and I believe he will make it.

“I look forward to the next step for Gabriel. He is currently being seen for other feature films and TV.

“Gabriel has the potential to be a British Johnny Depp type - he is a fantastic actor with a gorgeous look and natural emotional intelligence for his character.”

Containment is showing at the Henley Regal Picturehouse as part of the Henley Fringe and Film Festival 2015.

For further details visit or call the cinema on 0871 9025738.

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