Shepherding the laughter

From L-R Thomas Edward-Bennett, Sally Ann Staunton and Matthew Hamper  - The Boy Who Cried Wolf -
From L-R Thomas Edward-Bennett, Sally Ann Staunton and Matthew Hamper - The Boy Who Cried Wolf -

At drama school Thomas Edward-Bennett learned how to find “his inner idiot” which he thinks has stood him in good stead to get the children laughing.

He is one of the three young actors performing the Christmas show in the Crucible Studio, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, the tutti frutti production based on Aesop’s Fable,

He trained at East 15 Acting School in his native London where coincidentally he was in the same year as Matthew Hamper who is playing his grandson in the show. Although on nodding terms they had never worked with each other before finding themselves in the same company based in Leeds.

“We were on very, very different courses at East 15,” explains Edward-Bennett. “ The one I was on was called Acting in Contemporary Theatre and it geared you up so if you weren’t getting the auditions you could start creating the work yourself, playful theatre very much like this show.

“There was a physical comedy module and we would learn all about clowning - not clowning with a red nose but from Philippe Gaulier in France. He came up with this thing called finding your inner idiot which means taking things from the audience and from the other actors .”

“ My course was more traditional acting,” says Hamper. “We did Shakespeare and Chekov and also family shows, it was a varied course.”

Which is just as well since the actors - Sally Ann Staunton completes the cast - need to show versatility, not only playing their human characters but a flock of sheep and providing the music.

In Hamper’s case it’s the accordion which he has picked up in the course of acting. “When you are playing in a show there is pressure to play to a standard but you are always getting better as you go along,” he says. “I didn’t know the accordion when I was a kid. I started a year and a half or two years ago.”

Adds Edward-Bennett: “Nowadays as an actor you have to have another string to your bow whether that’s miming or dance or music.”

Performing to children they need to respond to the audience. “What’s great is you always have to be on your toes because they often throw things at you,” says Hamper, referring to words rather than objects.

Adds his colleague: “Things like kids going to the toilet you can sometimes incorporate into the show. If it happens when one of us is being a sheep you can refer to them as being sheep. It’s disturbed what we are doing but you can use it.”

The show runs to January 5 and the cast will have only two days off over Christmas. Hamper is going back to his family in Worthing, Sussex.”There are no trains on Boxing Day so I am on a bus for eight and a half hours, 9 until 6, but it’s worth it because I love Christmas and it’s the only time all my family are together.”

Review, Page 34