Ben has written an article for Bradford's newspaper, the Telegraph & Argus, prior to returning to his home town in Demon Dentist. With enormous thanks to Emma Clayton, Leisure & Lifestyle Editor at the T&A.
Here is the article in full:
As a proud Bradfordian, born and bred, I’m delighted to be returning to the city in June this year to appear at my favourite theatre, The Alhambra.
After graduating from Queensbury School in the late 90s, I was lost. My grades were average and after three failed attempts at GCSE Maths, I’d given up on becoming an accountant. Rishi Sunak would be proud, I’m sure.
After seeing a special on-stage interview with Richard Attenborough at the Pictureville Cinema in 2001, doubled with my passion for film and theatre, I decided to consider a career as a professional actor - encouraged by my rather inspirational Careers Advisor, Cathy Calvert.
I joined local am-dram companies including the Bradford Youth Players, the Bradford Catholic Players, Halifax Amateur Operatic Society, Actors Community Theatre and eventually co-founded a theatre company called Paper Zoo. I played cowboys, sailors, gangsters, Russians, Americans and even a pig in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. In fact, before leaving Bradford, I’d racked-up over 50 productions at various venues across the region. This was a wonderful training ground for a local, aspiring actor. I learnt not only how to behave on (and back) stage, but how to book venues, source costumes, obtain theatrical rights, adapt plays and work within an acting company.
During these formative years, I was ‘paying the bills’ by working at the two jewels of Bradford’s cultural crown - as Film Festival Producer at (what was) the National Media Museum and as Front of House staff at the Bradford Alhambra. Ah, the Alhambra.
My duties involved tearing tickets, selling ice-creams and being paid to watch the show, I mean, erm, make sure the audience were seated comfortably. It was a joyous few years. I saw musicals, plays, operas, ballet, stand-up and all sorts of famous folk “treading the boards”. I sat, wide-eyed, fingers-crossed, dreaming that one day, maybe - just maybe, I’d be up there on that glorious stage. Ok, ok - I actually did appear at the Alhambra in musicals playing the aforementioned cowboys, sailors, gangsters and even a Beast…but imagine being paid to be there! The dream.
In 2011 I was lucky enough to be offered a place at London’s Central School of Speech & Drama. The drama school where Laurence Olivier, Judi Dench and a host of acting legends trained. You can imagine the somewhat daunting first day - walking up the steps, engraved with the names of prestigious alumni. It was a life-changing three years and I’m delighted to say, since graduating almost a decade ago, I’ve had some wonderful opportunities as a professional actor.
I’ve toured the US twice with Shakespeare plays, sung at the Royal Albert Hall, played grumpy northern coppers, ghosts, industrial revolutionaries and pantomime dames, whilst recording voiceovers for radio, TV and audiobooks. I was even lucky enough to play a small role in Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate on BBC One last year. Recently I’ve been having fun, telling tales of guts and gore and poo and pee to crowds of Horrible Histories fans in their production of Terrible Thames.
However, nothing beats the chance of returning to the Alhambra. My real training ground and inspiration. My Mecca.
I’m currently touring the UK in David Walliams’ Demon Dentist. A fun show, adapted from the popular Walliams book by Neal Foster for the Birmingham Stage Company. I’m having a ball. I play five characters, all of which are larger than life. The touring company is my new little family and I’m enjoying visiting some wonderful theatres across the country.
The show follows Alfie and Gabz as they investigate the strange events happening in their home town. Children are leaving their teeth for the tooth fairy and waking up to find odd things under their pillows! Alfie and Gabz are determined to get to the bottom of the mystery - but no-one could have dreamed what they'll discover when they come face to face with the demon dentist herself, in this hilarious and thrilling story.
I’m delighted to be working as a jobbing actor, but it’s not all sunshine and flowers! This career path is almost impossible and getting any job is a triumph. It’s a marathon, not a sprint but my sights are set high - onwards and upwards to the next opportunity. It would be a dream to work for the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the National Theatre or regional theatres like the Sheffield Crucible or Leeds Playhouse. I’m constantly grateful to the many who have helped me get even here. I’m proud to have worked hard to achieve a small part of my dream. Hollywood can wait! Although, I’ve heard the next Bond might be a tall, tubby, glasses-wearing Bradfordian?
So, in June I’m ticking-off an item on my personal bucket list. Returning to the Alhambra as a professional, proper, paid actor. It could be an emotional week…
DEMON DENTIST runs at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford from 8 - 11 June 2023.
For tickets and more information, visit the website here: https://www.bradford-theatres.co.uk/whats-on/demon-dentist
Online article here: