Songs and Solidarity ~ Trafalgar Studios, Sunday 25 June 2017

SONGS AND SOLIDARITY A West End concert for those affected by the Grenfell Tower Fire

Sunday 25th June 2017 at 7.30pm

Trafalgar Studios 1

14 Whitehall London SW1A 2DY

Box Office: 0844 871 7632 trafalgar-studios/

Tickets £25 – £45
all tickets are subject to a restoration levy of £1 per ticket and transaction charge of £3.50 per transaction

Giles Terera and Danielle Tarento are presenting a West End fundraising gala evening of song, dance and comedy for the hundreds of families made homeless and the relatives of those who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire.

SONGS AND SOLIDARITY will take place at Trafalgar Studios 1 on Sunday 25 June at 7.30pm.
Among a host of people taking part are Jason Manford, Mark Thomas, Dreamgirls star Tyrone Huntley, Wicked star Rachel Tucker, West End composers Stiles and Drewe, playwright, novelist, critic and broadcaster Bonnie Greer and the West End Gospel Choir.
Giles Terera said: “I’m sure for all of us our immediate response is to want to try and reach out and help, either as an individual or collectively. The community that has suffered this horror has always been a strong, close knit, diverse, creative one. As an artistic community we aim for those same values. At the same time it is a community which has been marginalised and ignored for a very long time. So as well as the vital response of trying to contribute financially and materially we have an opportunity to come together stand in solidarity with those directly affected and say this should not have happened.”
The evening will feature contributions from*: Nikki

Amuka-Bird, Julie Atherton,Rikki Beadle-Blair, Vikash Bhai, Dame Judi Dench, Noma Dumezweni, Clare Foster, Bonnie Greer, Tyrone Huntley, Cassidy Janson, Alexia Khadime, David McAlmont, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Omar F Okai Company, Earl Okin, Jon Robyns, Stiles and Drewe, Claire Sweeney, Rakhee Thakrar, Mark Thomas, Rachel Tucker, Gok Wan, West End Gospel Choir.
Musical Director Tim Sutton

The evening will also feature a silent auction with some sensational theatre-related lots!
*line-up may be subject to change

All proceeds will go to the Grenfell Tower Fire Fund set up by Eartha Pond to ensure the donations go directly to the victims. If you can’t attend but wish to make a donation, please visit Grenfell Tower Fire Fund


ROYAL CENTRAL – A Collection Of Memories, Written By Ian Closier-Hawkins ~ Book Review

What first struck me about this book, which has been so thoughtfully compiled by Ian Closier-Hawkins, is just how many individuals he has obtained quotes from, whose names are familiar to me, but who I had not associated with this particular Drama School.

It’s been a real page turner from that point of view, but the content is s fascinating, too. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about the experiences of some of my personal favourites, such as that of Carol Royle, I was intrigued to read a snapshot from her student life experience. Dame Judi Dench is also among the contributes, how amazing that Royal Central School of Speech and Drama was based at The Royal Albert Hall while she was there. John Owen-Jones who has been a popular Phantom of the Opera for some time, also gives a good account of his time in education. Gina Beck, Zoe Wanamaker CBE and Philip Glenister also speak fondly of their Drama School days. What’s important is that the writer also puts in his own contribution, he was a student on the Theatre Practice – Stage Management course and as he says in his interview which is also published on this site, it’s a way of showing what else is on offer at Drama School, besides acting courses.

With a Foreword by Michael Grandage CBE who is President of Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and with over 100 alumni featured, one thing is evident Closier-Hawkins has put thought, imagination and heart into this book. It makes for a great read and I feel that it will also become quite a resource for me to dip in and out of. Well done, Ian, you’ve done a tremendous job and I think you’ve done Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, proud.

You can email Ian to order a copy of the book: or you can contact him via Twitter @mrianhawkins

Spotlight On… Author, Ian Closier-Hawkins

Ian Closier-Hawkins is the author of brand new book, ROYAL CENTRAL – A Collection Of Memories, the book is born out of his own experience of attending Central School of Speech and Drama. He has interviewed a large number of previous students from the School and there are many, many famous faces on that list. I chatted with Ian to find out what his inspiration for writing this, was:

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Ian. What was the inspiration for compiling the book?

I have always wanted to write a book. Like a lot of people, I expect. I always struggled with writing and I was found to be dyslexic ONLY when I went to university – Central, where they sent me for the test. It is something I wanted to prove to myself that I could do and I have done it. Although I have not written the book so to speak, I have spent 18 months working on it and compiling it so I can say with a big smile it’s my book.

How long did your research take you and what was the most surprising element of your research?

The whole process took me 18 months from the day I sent the first letters out to people until I had the finished published book arrive at my house. Being a stage manager I am very organised and have to be strict with my deadlines and time keeping. It comes with the job and is now part of who I am. It was important to stick to these deadlines and not move away from them in order to get the book published when I needed it to be done. This year celebrates the 110th anniversary of Central School so having the book released on the 111th year didn’t really have such a good ring to it. The most surprising element was how many people responded and how positive everyone was about the book and wanting to be involved. I had so many people getting in touch and saying what a great idea it was and how thrilled they had been asked to be part of it. Having replies from what I would call ‘famous’ people was also very rewarding as they can sometimes be hard to get hold of but I have been very lucky on this project and I think it has been an important book to publish.

What are your best loved memories of being at Central?

I loved every minute of being at central! I loved the first day and walking up the famous steps which so many people had walked up before. Wondering if people in my year would end up being the next James Bond. There was an air of excitement that stayed with me every day for three years. I remember so many fun things like seeing how many people we could fit in the lift – we managed about twenty and it obviously broke down. It didn’t go down too well with the maintenance guys! I remember rehearsals and some directors being so strict that of you arrived a second after the start time you were not allowed in for the whole day! This was strict but sets you in good stead for a career in the theatre and demonstrates how you can never be late for an audition, a rehearsal or a show! I made a lot of friends whilst at central. Unfortunately, I only speak to one or two of them these days but it was a very social hub. I remember drinking for the first time. Having a hangover for the first time. staying up all night partying then going into rehearsals the next day being sick as a dog. All the things students do really, but we had fun all day. Playing games, having laughs, working hard – we were in all day every day 5 days a week. Sometimes weekends and some evenings! It was a full on three years but it was so amazing! I would do it all again tomorrow!

What would you do differently (if anything) if you had that time again?

I would do nothing differently at all – I would want it to be exactly the same. You were allowed to make mistakes and fail, so when we did we were supported and learnt from it. Never told off. It made you feel free and relaxed and able to learn in a place that didn’t criticise you for making a mistake. Sometimes you wished the teachers would tell you that you were making a big mistake, but if they did, what would we have learned from that? Nothing. I would do it all again and live every day exactly the same as I did all those years ago.

What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

I would hope that readers of this book come to an understanding that drama schools, not only Royal Central, are not only for actors. A lot of people whom you say you went to drama school think you train as an actor, they have no idea that you can train to be a stage manager, a sound / lighting designer, a producer, a costume maker / designer, a puppeteer, a scenic artist, a voice coach, a movement coach or even a teacher! I want readers to see how much hard work goes into being at drama school and how amazing the outcome can be. I would want readers to come away with seeing how Central has changed over the years. My book covers 8 decades so things have changed and moved on since the 1940’s to the present day but some people’s memories of central then and now still stay the same. There is a common census that it was truly a wonderful place to study and I would urge and theatre student wanting to go to drama school to give Central a go and to follow their dreams.

Finally, sell it to me, why should everybody buy a copy?

Central celebrates why a career in the arts matters and is important. Hearing from people who owe their own careers to this wonderful drama school I think should be an inspiration to all those considering a future in theatre. For anyone who loves theatre and the arts this book is really for you. It gives an insight to life at drama school and reading peoples personal memories of their time at the school delves into something quite special. It is like discovering well-kept secret and some inside information that we are now privy too. Who wouldn’t want to know what Judi Dench really thought of her time at drama school and who would have thought she would skip class and didn’t want to become an actress to start off with. That’s just one example, and there are so many. The book is also written by a theatre stage manager who has self-published this book and would hope that people in the industry or interested in the industry would support him. The book is limited edition so once it’s gone, it’s gone, as the old saying goes.

Thanks to Ian for a very informative interview, you can contact Ian directly to purchase a copy: email address: or via Twitter @mrianhawkins



Spotlight On… Home Fires Star, Claire Price

Claire Price is well known on our screens for playing Miriam in Home Fires and she starred as Penelope Wilton’s daughter in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. She has also trod the boards, extensively. I caught up with Claire to find out all about her experiences on Home Fires and what it was like to join a star studded cast for Marigold Hotel.

I loved Home Fires, what have your favourite memories of the show, been and what drew you to the character and the show?

I’m so glad you loved Home Fires because I loved making it. It really was one of the most fulfilling and happy jobs I’ve done, with a brilliant crew and creative team, and a cast that has become genuinely close over the last two years. I have lots of fantastic memories of us working together, or sometimes just sitting around on set, held up by rain, waiting to film, chatting and laughing about stuff. I auditioned for a different part originally – and I didn’t take to Miriam when I read the script! It was an odd coincidence that I found myself at the National Archive a few days after that first meeting, helping my partner research his next book, The Secret History of the Blitz, looking at domestic crime in London during that period. There was a particular case that caught my attention, the story of Jack Brack, a low level criminal with a congenital heart defect who was judged unfit to serve in any capacity. His friends came up with a scheme to make money out of his condition, so for a fee, Brack would take medicals on behalf of men who wanted to avoid military service. Eventually the Police became suspicious of the number of men who seemed to have the same rare heart defect and the scam was discovered. In the trial notes, I found the story of a mother who lost her oldest son in the First World War, and offered Brack her life savings to keep her youngest son out of the Second. I had no idea that happened during the war, and no idea that tens of thousands of mothers left their sons off the 1939 Register, as Miriam does. I looked at Miriam very differently after that, she became more real to me, more brave and tragic in her attempt to hold things together. Then I got a call from my agent – the producer, Sue de Beauvoir, and director, Bruce Goodison, wanted me to come in again and this time, read for Miriam. Like so many other things about this lovely job, it was all strangely fortuitous and from that moment, everything fell into place.

Claire as Miriam in ITV’s Home Fires. Photo credit: ITV.


Have you a favourite episode or scene from Home Fires?

I particularly loved doing a scene in the first series. Home Fires is a very realistic drama, but in this scene, when Miriam sees the soldiers running past and thinks she sees David, Will Attenborough as David was amongst them, in a soldier’s uniform, so the audience were in Miriam’s head for a split second, sharing her anxious perspective. I loved that! Then she comes back into the butcher’s shop and has to explain to Bryn what just happened, and she knows it’s mad but it’s real to her. That sequence was full of feeling and I was encouraged to take Miriam’s distress quite far.

I loved all my scenes with Dan Ryan, particularly the scene where Miriam and Bryn read the telegram telling them David is missing. That’s the kind of stuff you want to play as an actor, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, trying to find a way of bearing the unbearable.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one of my favourite films. What was it like filming with so many big names and what was your personal highlight?

They were lovely! Very funny and generous, and we laughed a lot. I learned early in my career that movie stars are just actors underneath everything, anxious to do the job right. And if I appeared intimidated by them, that would make things awkward. So I make a point of being normal. It must be a lot of pressure to be very famous, to know that people have such enormous expectations of you.

Dame Judi Dench was invited by the Royal family in Jaipur to visit a newly refurbished floating palace, and she asked if she could bring the other women in the cast as her guests. So we were collected from our hotel, driven to an idyllic lake in the heart of Jaipur, loaded onto boats and taken over the water to this magnificent palace. That was a stunning experience. I also had an incredible day visiting ancient Hindu temples with Seema Asmi (who plays Anokhi in the films) and… Richard Gere! He was completely charming, self-deprecating and kind.

I really loved working with Dame Penelope Wilton (I played her daughter in the film). She is one of my favourite actresses – her performance as Hester in The Deep Blue Sea had such an effect on me. After doing a scene one day, we had some time off and went round a local market together, buying herbs and spices. When I got back to London, I made some incredible curries with those spices!

Who inspires you as an actress? Have you any heroes?

Penelope Wilton! She can be simultaneously so funny and so painfully real. I would stay after finishing my own scenes in Marigold, in order to watch her film hers, because she is so creative, so truthful, and always tries new things, layering and developing as she goes. I was also very inspired by a magnificent actress, Susan Fleetwood, who died quite young. I saw her play Arkadina in The Seagull, and can remember every moment.

Do you have a preference between performing on stage and on screen?

I think like most actors really, I prefer theatre. Theatre belongs to the actor and television to the director. No one can edit your performance on stage, once you’re out there, it’s all down to you. But I have prioritized doing TV and film recently, because it’s hard to live on a theatre salary and the ideal situation is to have a good mix of both. Theatre is emotionally & physically tough, with a mountain that has to be climbed every day, and twice on matinee days. You have to be match fit for plays, with strong breathing and diction, always alive in the moment, always ready and never anticipating anything even if it’s the 95th performance. TV is different, with long days, lots of waiting then short intense bursts of pressure and some very early starts – when filming Home Fires, we were sometimes picked up from our hotel at 5 am, because curling everyone’s hair took HOURS! That means waking at 4 or 4.30, after poor sleep in a hotel bed. So the days are long, but in a show like HF with so many characters, the pressure is distributed and no one ends up doing too many days in a row.

There are some great writers for television, Simon Block’s scripts were a pleasure to act. But theatre has such a huge and venerable history, such an extraordinary canon of writers. I think though, there will be more work for middle aged women on TV. Shakespeare is a done deal and there are not many hefty and brilliant parts for 45 year old women in there – which explains the increasing number of all female productions. It’s television that can respond to what its audience wants. And more and more, that is as yet untold stories and women’s stories. It’s why Call The Midwife is so popular, and why Home Fires caught people’s imagination so strongly. And why it’s such an enormous shame it’s been axed.

Are there any roles you’d love to play or shows you would like to be a part of?

In theatre, I would love to do more Ibsen and Chekhov. Ibsen is my favourite playwright of all, I’ve been in two of his plays, Brand with Ralph Fiennes at the RSC and The Lady from the Sea at Birmingham Rep. They are profound plays and work on many levels. But I’m also more and more interested in doing contemporary plays, like Stephen Waters’ Little Platoons that I did at the Bush Theatre a few years ago about the free school movement. Or David Hare’s The Power of Yes about the banking crisis. Hearing audiences GASP as they suddenly understood how and why the bankers made the mistakes they did, was truly exciting. It felt like being part of the news.

I’ve also started doing some new comedy on Radio 4, with Robert Newman last year, and The World of Simon Rich which is on at the moment on Thursday nights. I love working with comedians, they have a very different approach to actors and it’s a challenge to keep up with them. I actually performed at one of Rob’s live gigs to try out material he was working on for the show. He improvised and I had my lines written down. I had to listen really hard to know when to come in. It was an adventure!

What’s next for you?

Nothing at the moment…An actor’s life!

Favourite things (just for fun, let me have your first reaction to these questions, please):

Favourite film?

High Noon with Grace Kelly and Gary Cooper.

Favourite restaurant?

I’m not a vegetarian anymore, but I was for years and always loved Mildred’s in Soho. Incredible food.

Favourite hobby?

Weirdly, kick boxing. I have a fantastic DVD and do it in the house. I’m not sure it’s so much fun for the neighbours in the flat below, but I love it. I also do embroidery, but I’ve been working on the same one since filming Rebus. That’s nearly ten years ago. I really need to go a little faster than that.

Favourite musical?

Guys & Dolls or Fiddler on the Roof.

Favourite poem?

An Arundel Tomb by Philip Larkin.

A  terrific interview from a terrific actress, I hope we see Claire treading the boards or indeed, on our screens again soon.

Featured Photo Credit: Curtis Brown.

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: