DMU Pride & Gypsy Queen interview

DeMontfort University have held a DMU Pride event to celebrate LGBT History Month since 2015. This encompasses all sorts of supportive events within the university as well as cultural events at Curve and Phoenix Cinema.
This year Curve is hosting five events throughout February, four theatrical performances and one dance workshop. One of the shows on is a very welcome return of Gypsy Queen after its sold out show last year.
I spoke to Rob Ward, writer and actor in Gypsy Queen and asked him if he deliberately booked the show in for DMU Pride or did they approach him?
“We actually worked with them last year” he said “and we were approached to do the show last year for their Pride events in one of the cute rehearsal rooms at Curve and we sold out. So when we were approached for this year I got on to Curve, spoke to Nikolai Foster and they came and saw the show and this time we are booked in the Studio.”
I mentioned that DMU were probably quite unique in spreading their LGBT awareness outside of the university
“Yeah, they have fostered such a good relationship with Curve that they can have this mini LGBT festival”
Then we moved on to Gypsy Queen. I wanted to know why Rob, as the author, wanted to set it within the travelling community.
“I already had a small play about two gay boxers and I was looking to extend it to a more full length show, a studio tour. The problem was I couldn’t find an angle to extend the story. Then about three years ago there was the whole incident with Tyson Fury and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award when he made a series of homophobic, sexist and generally awful comments around the time he had won the World Heavyweight title. There was an almighty uproar because he was shortlisted for the BBC Sports Personality award despite these remarks having been made public. This was a big issue for me because sport doesn’t have role models for the LGBT community. It doesn’t have openly LGBT sports people for fans like me. I don’t feel like I belong in that world. So when the whole Tyson Fury thing came out I wondered just why he felt he had to say these things about gay people. What was his personal interest in all this? Then it crossed my mind what if he was gay himself? What if it was that classic defence mechanism? Maybe it is a case of those with most to hide shout loudest, and in that moment I thought what if one of  these boxers is from the Traveller community. Suddenly you are bringing in not only a world of sport but also a community in which it is also very difficult to be gay but also the whole catholic debate and it gives the story a few more layers. You have two men, one from the world of professional sport and one from traveller community meeting and falling in love and suddenly the story burst into life.
“On this tour we have had a cast change, we have gone back to the original actor, Ryan Clayton [known for Josh Tucker in Coronation Street] now that he is available. He created the role of the sexually confident but closeted boxer, Dane,  while I played the repressed gay traveller, George.”
Gypsy Queen is on at Curve on Monday 25th February. Tickets are available from the Curve website.
The other productions for DMU Pride at Curve are Rubber Ring on Monday 18th February, the story of a 16 year old isolated on the Norfolk coast who runs away to London to see his hero Morrissey. On Wednesday 20th February there is Drip, a one man musical comedy about a 15 year old synchronised swimmer who can’t swim. On Thursday 28th February there is Joan, a drag king’s homage to the men she defies. Finally, for those feeling brave, there is a dance workshop on Friday 22nd February for those who want to learn to walk or dance in heels. Or maybe just take a class for the hell of it!

Full details of Curve’s DMU Pride events can be found at or via the Curve website
The entire schedule of all events for DMU Pride can be found at
First published on Western Gazette

Cast of The Frontline

Interview with cast members of The Frontline at Curve

I met up with two of the cast of The Frontline, one of Curve’s Inside Out Festival productions. Med Jannah and Amelia Eatough snuck out of the technical rehearsal in the Studio to fill me in on the production
I started by asking Amelia about her characters “I play two different characters and they are both completely different. One is called Val who has completely lost control of her son and is at the end of her tether, absolutely distraught at life, about her son about what he is turning into, who she’s become and very upset about the things she has done in her past. Then Casey is completely opposite. She’s a stripper but very grounded in her life, she is looking to the future and is dating one of the of the characters”
Med plays just one character, Miruts, “a drug dealer who is very proud of his Ethiopian heritage. Although he does it in a way that puts him at odds with the people around him. So he can be quite confrontational but there is a lot more to him than appears on the surface.”
I wanted to find out how they both got involved with the Curve’s new local actor training programme, supported by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Med: “I’m part of the Leicester University Theatre Society and an email came through about Curve doing a project with people you wouldn’t normally see in theatres, give us experience and courses we can go through this year and eventually be able to showcase our talents with what we have learned in Curve. When you get an opportunity like that you can’t turn it down. So I auditioned and made it through.”
Amelia: “I finished uni last year, doing a performance degree and am now doing a day job and working on this course in my spare time. I want to be a professional actor.”
Amelia spotted that Andrew Lloyd Webber was a supporter of  the programme and was immediately interested. Med only found out at the audition and realised this was a much bigger deal than he thought. While this production is not a musical, as such, there is singing in it. Hence the Lord’s involvement.
The original production had music by Arthur Darvill but this production has got a whole new soundtrack by local friends of Curve, Sheep Soup.
Amelia: “They have come in and made it completely their own, changed it up which was a wonderful opportunity to work with and learn about a visiting company”
Med: “We have got to see a show being built up around us”
I wanted to know where this experience would lead. Hopefully.
Amelia: “I came into the course hoping it would open doors, I would get to meet people. The play, The Frontline, is the culmination of the end of a year course”
Med: “Over the course we have been looking at classical theatre as well as modern theatre; stage movement and stage combat; musical theatre, singing.”
Amelia: “We get free tickets for shows and work with loads of different practitioners, all different styles, age ranges and experiences. We’ve worked with media teams. Some of the people on the course have never actually done a show before.”
So will they be just cast adrift at the end of their year with Curve?
Amelia: “We are being sent off with professional actors as mentors and I am jumping straight into White Christmas (Curve’s festive offering this year) which came directly from being on this course and come the new year I am trying to get more professional credits. Which is where my mentor will come into their own guiding and advising me. On the Press Night we will be given a list of people who can help us, agents etc who will be in attendance”
Talking to these youngsters it is obvious that once again Curve has created a unique climate for young talent to be nurtured and supported as ongoing actors.

Robert Cohen

Robert Cohen is a writer/actor/producer of both his own work and other author’s theatre and film scripts. ‘Something rotten’ is his acclaimed. self-penned examination of Hamlet’s much maligned uncle/step father, Claudius.
An experienced Shakespearean actor, Cohen has always been intrigued by the missing links within the Bard’s telling of The Prince of Denmark’s story. To this end he has attempted to fill in the gaps, sort of a literary pothole filler!
‘Something Rotten’, coming to Upstairs at The Western on Friday March 2nd, is Cohen’s attempt at righting history, a paraquel running alongside Hamlet’s story and attempting to answer questions such as how long had Claudius craved his brother’s crown? How long had he and Gertrude been at it? How did he get on with his nephew prior to the upheavals? And most importantly, how did Yorick become the most famous corpse in literary history? All this and more will be answered. Sort of.
Written in ‘modern English’ with just a flavour of Shakespearean verse, this is hopefully more accessible to non aficionados like myself.
Cohen’s previous visits to Leicester have been with High Vis and The Trials of Henry Matusow, both sold out shows and both going on to tour extensively.
Tickets are available on
Full details of his previous and current work are on

Paul Kerryson

Paul Kerryson's final production as Artistic Director is The Sound of Music, the story of a Governess who tames an unruly bunch of children. Not a million miles away from Kerryson's own trials nursing the fledging Curve Theatre to success over the last five years.
When he arrived at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre in 1991 Paul already had a wealth of experience as a performer and director. Starting off with a 3 year stint in Cameron Mackintosh's production of Godspell he moved to Manchester ( he still has a house there) as an actor and choreographer where he discovered his affinity with Sondheim's shows while working on the European premieres of Follies and Pacific Overtures. Both of which he eventually brought successfully to the Haymarket.
From Manchester Paul moved to Oldham Theatre in his first stint as an Artistic Director. Within 12 months he was in Leicester where, for the last 23 years, he has guided the city's cultural tastes as well as helming the creation of the jewel in Leicester's cultural crown, Curve. Throughout those two decades Kerryson has introduced this oasis in the East Midlands to such diversities as Sondheim, Larry Kramer and virtually every 'standard' musical ever written. A fair few of these revivals have transferred to the West End, notably Mack & Mabel, The King and I and Hot Stuff; the latter an original creation of Paul and Maggie Norris. But his expertise is not just reserved for 'grown up' musicals. He can turn his hand to many genres, including children's theatre and serious drama. I will never forget watching Pillowman in Curve's Studio space. He was also responsible for creating The Haymarket's hugely successful annual Promenaids charity weekends where he cajoled his colleagues into making fools of themselves onstage for a very worthwhile cause.
I moved to Leicester in 1990 and have been lucky enough to have seen countless productions that Paul Kerryson has directed. Amongst the many innovations that he has brought to Curve has been community projects; huge productions involving lots of talented local performers often being given their first taste of performing in a professional show under the tutelage of a master of his craft. He has also been responsible for nurturing strong links with De Montfort University's drama students.
We will miss Mr Kerryson when The Sound of Music finishes but a little bird tells me that he may not be leaving Leicester behind completely.
First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 2012

Sir Richard Attenborough

Sir Richard Attenborough
1923 - 2014
The Rt Hon. The Lord Attenborough, CBE, Dickie to all his friends, eldest of three sons to Mary and Frederick Attenborough, was a prodigious talent with a very firm connection to Leicester which he never forgot.
Born in Cambridge, Richard Samuel Attenborough moved to Leicester when his father, an esteemed scholar and academic was appointed Principal of University College, Leicester (later to become Leicester University) and the young Dickie took up his studies at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys.
Leaving school he was drafted into the Air Force and, luckily for generations to follow, ended up in the RAF Film Unit at Pinewood. His interest in performing had been nurtured by his participation in productions at Leicester's Little Theatre, an establishment he maintained a connection with as patron until his death.
His first film, In Which We Serve, was uncredited but saw him working under The Master, Noel Coward, who both wrote and directed this patriotic morale booster. From that inauspicious start in 1942 right up to 2002 Dickie made at least one film per year. From 1960 he also wore a producer's and director's hat for several films.
Alongside his extensive showbiz career, Attenborough held a huge number of corporate titles ranging from President of Chelsea Football Club to President of BAFTA and President of RADA.
Throughout his life he and his wife, actress Sheila Sim, retained very strong links with Leicester and he filmed scenes for several productions locally, most famously on the Great Central Railway for Shadowlands with Sir Anthony Hopkins.
A slew of titles were conferred on Sir Richard and reached a pinnacle with his ennoblement as Baron Attenborough of Richmond.
One of the most remarkable things about this giant of so many areas of life is that you would be very hard pressed to find anyone to say a bad word about him. As an epitaph for a life well lived you can't ask for more than 'He was a lovely man'
First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 28/8/2014

Jeffrey Holland

To those of us who are (unfortunately) over 40 Jeffrey Holland will forever be Spike, the trainee comedian to Paul Shane's Ted Bovis in TV's Hi Di Hi. The Sorcerer's Apprentice, if you will. Those under 40 will likely never have heard of him unless they have had the pleasure of one of his many theatrical performances.
I met up with Jeffrey as he was preparing for a three night run of his co-authored play 'and this is my friend Mr Laurel' at the Upstairs at The Western theatre in Leicester as part of the Dave Leicester Comedy Festival. As we sat in the empty auditorium he was fulsome with his memories of working in TV and on stage.
We started off chatting about his love of pantomime. He has just finished his 42nd season, 24 of them as dame. Often he is working with his wife, Judy, which mean they have much more time together than if he were touring alone, as he often does. With two grown up children and the recent arrival of his third grandchild, Jeffrey is a contented man doing a job he adores.
The Stan Laurel play is certainly a labour of love for Jeffrey. For many years he has been fascinated by the most successful double act in cinema history. Together Laurel and Hardy churned out 106 films between 1921 and 1951; alongside that Stan appeared in an additional 66 films between 1917 and 1928 without his fat chum.
As an actor who specialised in playing bungling fools onstage, Holland certainly felt an empathy for the onscreen idiot Stan Laurel. Both of them, however, are the polar opposite off-stage, capable, creative and business savvy. Laurel in particular wrote and directed virtually all of the Laurel and Hardy output. While Jeffrey can't claim the same controlling influence over his own livelihood, in his own quiet way he was steered a very successful jobbing actor's career over the past 50 years and shows no sign of slowing down just yet!
Jeffrey Holland's career started in the Belgrave Theater in Coventry where he spent 5 years in repertory learning his craft. Taking any acting job that he was offered he finally came to the notice of Croft and Perry, the creative writers behind Hi Di Hi, Dad's Army and Ello Ello. Several small parts finally lead to the character of Spike being created especially for him in Hi Di Hi, the very successful series set in a tatty 1950's holiday camp. From there he was cast in virtually every Croft and Perry show, even taking Dad's Army out on tour in the stage version.
While Jeffrey is now only seen on TV in cameos for shows like Coronation Street he has a very busy life in various stage productions. As well as touring his one man play, 'and this is my friend Mr Laurel', he is in rehearsals for Ray Cooney's 'Two Into One' running from 8th March to 26th April at Menier Chocolate Factory in London.
'and this is my friend Mr Laurel' can be seen at Upstairs at The Western until Friday 21st February and then at Kenton Theatre, Henley on Thames on March 29

First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 19/3/2014

Quentin Crisp

In 1975 I noticed that in the area of East London where I lived and thrust my sexuality into the faces of all and sundry, as many newly out gays tend to do, the general term of abuse shouted at me by louts was 'Quentin Crisp'. This only lasted a couple of years but was the direct result of Thames Television's audacious televising of Crisp's autobiography, The Naked Civil Servant, starring John Hurt.
This book had been floating around since 1968, the eve of decriminalisation, when it had sold a respectable 3,500 copies on publication and garnered several favourable reviews. Being a book it had not attracted the attention of the uneducated masses and had passed most people by. Television exposure put paid to that ignorance.
After having been heard on radio reading extracts from it Crisp was approached by Thames TV who dramatised the book and broadcast it in 1975. The rest, as they say, was history.
Suddenly being 'discovered' at the age of 67, Quentin (née Denis Pratt) took to showbiz like a duck to water. A popular guest on the chat show circuit Crisp had just one philosophy for making successful appearances. 'All you have to do' he maintained 'is look pleased to be there. It's like a party.'
A trip to America for promotional purposes resulted in Crisp moving there and becoming 'A Resident Alien' and inspiring Sting's hit 'An Englishman in New York'. He still travelled all over the world with his one-man show, An Evening With Quentin Crisp and appeared in a variety of film and stage shows. He played Lady Bracknell in Wilde's Importance of Being Earnest and Queen Elizabeth in Orlando as well as many roles as himself. His literary output didn't stop at The Naked Civil Servant (a reference to his days as a nude model working for the Council). Several tomes of his eclectic outpourings on a variety of subjects have sold well along with several volumes of autobiography. He also earned a regular living writing reviews for Christopher Street Magazine and New York Native.
Many will say that Quentin Crisp put back the cause of gay liberation by 50 years when he portrayed gay men as limp wristed, purple haired and out to capture any straight man within striking distance. While this may be true, he should be given credit for at least bringing to the public's attention the very subject of inequality and prejudice. He has been labelled by some as a spokesman for the gay community. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most gay men would run a mile at being confronted by the apparition that was Quentin Crisp in the flesh, and most would be reluctant to admit that he did their cause any good at all, especially when he called homosexuality an illness.
In many ways Quentin Crisp was the Oscar Wilde of the late 20th century; witty, admired (but only from afar) and best thought of in the abstract. He was, without doubt, a singular person, the like of which we will never see again. He leaves behind him legacy of wit which will brighten many a day.
Quentin Crisp died on 21st November 1999 from a heart attack mid-way through yet another tour of his one man show.
First published on Gay UK Net
© Paul Towers 2/12/2000