My sister Loretta Rose is many things. Firstly (and most importantly) she is my big sister. She is thirty years old. She is also a dancer and an aspiring actress. She is a dreamer… she is also guilty of telling quite a few fibs in her time.
So when she called me up a little while back and declared “Lexi – I am an act-tor and I’m going to be in a play with Hugh Grant” I thought to myself; this is why I love Loretta. The dancer. The dreamer. The ambition.She also tells me frequently that she’s engaged to Leonardo Di Caprio. She is a lovely one.
What I wasn’t expecting was that this crazed ambition, to share a stage with Hugh Grant, turned out to be the truth. Loretta actually was in a play with Hugh Grant.
A play based on a book Hugh co-wrote with the lovely Nigel Hollins, who is part of Loretta’s amazing theatre group The Baked Bean Theatre Company. I had the pleasure of doing work experience there when I was 16. It’s a great place where all levels of talent and experience are welcome and given a platform to shine and do something to the best of their ability.
Hugh had cowritten a book with Nigel for Books Beyond Words, a brilliant scheme that makes books for people who have learning disabilities. The Baked Bean Theatre Company had adapted it into a play and Hugh Grant offered his services to play a part in the show.
I called to get tickets, only to find it was already SOLD OUT. I was devastated. But, Tom and I went along after work last night anyway and joined the returns queue. Thanks to the lovely Graham at Books Beyond Words (bigs ups) we got two front row seats for the show.
The play starred the brilliant Ashley Phillips as Dean, a shy aspiring actor who – with the help of Rick (played by a humble and understated Hugh Grant) gets involved with the Baked Bean Theatre Company (played by themselves). The play followed the theatre company in the build up to their next show; Romeo and Juliet. The audience were then treated to – in true Shakespearian style – a play within a play. Hugh Grant stepped to the side (actually he went and took a seat in the audience) whilst the Baked Bean Theatre Company wowed us with an adaptation of the famous tale of star-crossed lovers.
Ashley knew it was time to shine as he recited the magnificent “what light through yonder window breaks?” monologue word-perfect. Kate Powell demonstrated her comedy timing as a very cool and sassy Juliet while Wayne McGregor’s performance as Tybalt was flawless.
The whole cast were tight and worked well together. The performance was slick, charming and received a well deserved standing ovation at the end. Hugh jumped back up onto the stage and joined them for a final bow… to be honest I think we’d all forgotten about him a little bit up until that point.
In a world full of stories about how many things people with learning disabilities can’t do… it was so refreshing and brilliant to spend an evening seeing what they can do.
Thank you Hugh Grant for giving them the spotlight.
For… Hugh-liet is the sun… sorry.
To find out more:
Books Beyond Words:
Baked Bean Theatre Company: