Lee Ridley AKA Lost Voice Guy Interview

Following the unprecedented success of his appearance on the final of Britain’s Got Talent 2018, BBC New Comedy Award winner and star and writer of BBC Radio 4’s comedy series, Ability, Lee Ridley (aka Lost Voice Guy) is setting out on a tour of the UK.

He comes to Camberley Theatre on Friday 22 March and you can get your tickets here.

Lee Ridley (aka Lost Voice Guy)

 Interviewed By Brian Donaldson

In the summer of 2018, Lee Ridley was already a popular figure on the comedy circuit. But when he scooped the crown of Britain’s Got Talent in June, Lost Voice Guy suddenly became a name everyone was shouting about. Winning a TV talent contest can take an act onto a whole new level of fame with doors opening more readily than they might have done before. As he takes to the nation’s stages with a touring show entitled I’m Only In It For The Parking, the County Durham-born Lee found that this was no more truer than in his case.

 

“The main reason I decided to audition for Britain’s Got Talent was obviously to meet Ant and Dec,” he half-jests. “But I also did it because I thought it would help me develop as a performer. Of course, I never expected to win it. In fact, I had to cancel my summer holiday because it clashed with the final. It was definitely worth it though. I think the look on my face when I won said it all. Winning the show has changed my life in so many ways. As a comedian, I’m busier than I ever was before. One of the best things to happen since I won is that people are engaging with me a lot more than they would have in the past. For the first time they seem comfortable talking to a disabled person. I’m used to being stared at for negative reasons so it’s nice to be stared at for positive reasons for a change.”

Lost Voice Guy - Tour photo by steve ullathorne

While Lee has plenty to say about those who have bigoted opinions about disabled people, he’s just as tough on those who are either patronising or overly keen to elevate the disabled into saints simply for being able to achieve something. And all of it is done in the most non-Geordie accent you can imagine, all plummy, middle England and computerised, with the voiceless Lee communicating through an iPad app. But why did he pick that particular voice to express his comedy with?

“To be honest, I didn’t have much choice. The app I use to speak only had a limited number of voices to choose from, and my particular voice was the best of a bad bunch. I’m quite used to sounding like a posh version of RoboCop now though, and I think the posh accent makes my jokes even funnier. I’ve sounded like this for most of my life now, so I do think of it as being my own voice. I think I’d feel weird if I had to change it now.”

Having started performing comedy in 2012, Lee won the BBC Radio New Comedy Award in 2014 and has created hour-long shows for the Edinburgh Fringe such as Disability For Dunces, Inspiration Porn and Laughter Is The Worst Medicine. He’s also co-written and starred in Ability, a Radio 4 sitcom about a man with cerebral palsy who moves out of his parents’ home, and penned a book which shares the title of this new touring show.

But with all that success on his CV already, where does he see his career going now? “I honestly don’t have any big ambitions. When I first started stand-up comedy, I just thought I’d try it for a bit of fun. I never expected to be this successful in my wildest dreams. So, I’m just taking it all as it comes and seeing what might happen next. I’m enjoying the ride and that’s the most important thing.”

Being on tour is something of a ride for any comedian, but for Lee, that adventure has extra obstacles and barriers inherently built into it. However, he is determined to make the most of these opportunities. “I think the best thing about being on tour is getting to see some really lovely places that maybe I wouldn’t have ever visited otherwise, and then getting to meet people from all different walks of life. I’ve got a lot of fans based all over the place so it’s nice to be able to get to meet them. One of the worst things is definitely being away from home. I quite like my home comforts such as my bed and being able to sit in my pants and watch television all day. So I miss that when I’m away.”

Audiences, of course, come in all different shapes and sizes, and life on the road wouldn’t be the same without some odd incidents occurring along the way. “You would be surprised at how many people come up to me after gigs and ask if I really can’t speak. Because, of course, it would totally be acceptable to pretend to be disabled for a laugh. I can safely say that I have never been able to talk. I have lived in Newcastle all my life, but for some reason I still haven’t picked up the accent. However, if you are trying to place my accent, it’s from PC World.”

Scope Ambassador Lee Ridley - with Clare Balding

Truth plays a major part in Lee’s comedy and he is often calling out politicians as well as the general public for their negative or dishonest approach to disability. The upside is that he’s rarely short of stories and anecdotes. One instance where he was ordered by a train inspector to give up his disabled seat for someone else inspired his episode on the Sky Arts Comedy Shorts series last year. “I think most of my comedy comes from my real-life experiences. On the one hand, that’s quite frightening because some of it is unbelievably ridiculous. But on the other hand, it gives me some great material. I’d be silly not to use these experiences, and if I didn’t laugh about it then I’d most definitely cry!” As the nation is about to find out, it’s not just Lee who’s laughing when his Lost Voice Guy airs his opinions.

 

 

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“Here Come The Girls” INTERVIEW

Dianne Buswell and Amy Dowden have established themselves on the hit BBC show Strictly Come Dancing and Chloe Hewitt also joins the cast of pro girls to make it the first Girls tour.

For tickets for the show at Camberley Theatre on Friday 5th April click here.

We are very excited to be hosting Here Come The Girls, the all new show that brings an exciting mix of individual performances and group numbers with their supporting dance partners. The show will have a mix of Ballroom and Latin routines and has been choreographed by Patrick Helm, this show promises to be a fresh and innovative with amazing routines to dazzle and wow you. Patrick will also perform on the show with Dianne!

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How did your dancing career start?

Dianne: I began dancing at the age of five in Perth, Australia. I went on to compete from an early age representing Western Australia in National and International Ballroom and Latin events. I found success in Australian TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” at the age of 18.

Amy: I started dancing at the age of eight at my local dance school Shappelles in Caerphilly along with my twin sister. I soon joined the school’s formation team and immediately fell in love with the world of dance. I studied ballroom, Latin, freestyle, ballet and contemporary but my dream was to be a top competitor on the open Latin and ballroom competition circuit.

Chloe: My dance training began at the tender age of seven when I joined Pritchards Dance and Fitness Academy in Burleydam. I went on to win many dance titles but my proudest achievement was winning the World Championships at Blackpool Winter Gardens in 2015. I first appeared on TV on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent in 2013 when I got through to the live semi-finals.

When did you join Strictly Come Dancing?

Dianne: I joined in 2017 as Strictly’s new professional dancer. My first celebrity partner was the Reverend Richard Coles who I sadly bowed out of the 2017 competition with during week three.

Amy: I was invited to become one of the professional dancers in 2017, partnering comedian Brian Conley. In this first year on the show I won the “Children in Need Strictly Special” with Mark Curry and danced in the Christmas special with Colin Jackson.

Chloe: In 2016 I joined the cast becoming the youngest ever professional to join the show at the age of 20 years old. My Strictly career has seen me dance in the 2016 Christmas Special with Gethin Jones and partnering the incredible Blue Peter presenter Radzi Chinyinganya for the 2017 “Children in Need” show.

Which celebrity dance partner has made you laugh the most?

Dianne: I’d say Joe because I was with him the longest but for the short amount of time I danced with the Reverend Richard Cole he made me laugh a lot so I’d have to say these two made me laugh equally.

Do you get nervous before you go on stage?

Chloe: I think it’s very natural to feel nervous due to all the adrenaline but I feel more excited than anxious. Competing makes me more nervous than performing but I try to channel the nerves into excitement instead of running and hiding.

 How does it make you feel being Strictly’s first Welsh professional dancer?

Amy: Incredibly proud. I’ve always been proud of my Welsh roots.

The Searchers: Farewell and History

Tickets for The Searchers at Camberley Theatre on March 29th 2019 can be bought by clicking here.

Well, it has finally happened.

After a non stop professional touring career of a mind boggling 56 years (they count their anniversaries from June 1962 when they threw in their day jobs to head over to Hamburg and the legendary Star Club) you might wonder how and why The Searchers have never slowed down or stopped.  It is a back breaking schedule that has constantly amazed their contemporaries in the heady world of pop music. But wonder no more because at last the band has decided to end the touring and enjoy a well deserved rest.

After this current run of two hour solo concerts the latter months of 2018 see them undertake yet another Sixties Gold package tour headlining over a bunch of their fellow friends and musicians which no doubt will pack the venues as they always do. And in January 2019 they begin their farewell series of solo presentations around the U.K culminating in a final show on March 31st. It is surely a sad time for their loyal and devoted followers who thought they would go on forever.

Black shirts

It was certainly not a case of the need to. They still undertake somewhere between 150 and 200 shows a year and their legendary solo concerts in which they present a potted history of the iconic band in music and anecdotes are invariably selllouts.

They have never fallen out of love with performing and never will but that fun element is only the tip of the iceberg. Still fit and looking decades younger than their years they finally decided they want a rest from the constant driving, the clogged up motorways which for the most part these days resemble car parks, and the hours of hanging about waiting for their moment to shine.

Back in the mid sixties when the incredible beat boom created by the Beatles saw so many bands riding on the crest of a seemingly unstoppable wave of success eventually subsided many simply disbanded and got on with their lives as best they could. Not The Searchers.

They stayed firmly in place, a constant unit riding out the bad times putting the twilight years of the cabaret clubs, looked on as anathema by some, to good use as they diligently honed their stage craft and upgraded the quality of their shows to please the more mature audience who had replaced the screaming teenage girls who had mobbed them in those years of chart topping glory. Such dogged determination was to stand them in good stead for the momentous nostalgia revival which was to lift them once again to national and international prominence.

The Searchers seemed to be both unstoppable and indestructible. They were arguably the hardest working band in showbusiness and their amazing datesheet was legendary in the music industry. No other unit played more dates for such a continuous period without cessation.

Their impressive run of hits in those glory years from 1964 to 1966 was worldwide enabling them to travel the globe constantly.

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Sweets For My Sweet, Sugar & Spice, Needles & Pins, Don`t Throw Your Love Away, Someday We`re Gonna Love Again, When You Walk On The Room, Love Potion Number Nine, Goodbye My Love, He`s Got No Love, Take Me For What I`m Worth, Take It Or Leave It, Bumble Bee, Sweets Nothings. Have You Ever Loved Somebody, When I Get Home, What Have They Done To The Rain.

They have performed for both The Queen and Princess Margaret, headlined over such Motown luminaries as Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Martha & The Vandellas and The Temptations, entertained British troops in The Falklands, Bosnia and Belfast, toured Australia and New Zealand with The Rolling Stones and strutted their stuff in front of 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium as special guests of Cliff Richard.

In 2008 they found themselves back in the charts when the compilation album The Very Best Of The Searchers climbed to number eleven. It was only prevented from entering the top ten by Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.

As recently as 2014 they appeared in Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, to great acclaim and not for the first time. This was their third engagement in ‘Sin City’ but in fact the U.SA has played host to them constantly over the years. And on one special evening in New York they allowed Searchers afficionado Marky Ramone of the legendary punk pioneers to sit in on drums for Needles & Pins.

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As well as The Ramones they can count Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, The Byrds, Marshall Crenshaw and others as musicians who came under their influence. In fact Roger McGuinn was recently quoted as saying that without The Searchers there would have been no Byrds. The Searchers modestly venture that he was being a tad over generous in such high praise but there are many who would underline the truth of the statement.

Roger McGuinn of The Byrds on The Searchers

Without The Searchers there would have been no Byrds.

Chris Hillman of The Byrds on The Searchers

“We were quite a bit into The Searchers beginning with their two- and three-part harmonies. Roger McGuinn had been playing 12-string guitar since his days as a folk singer on the Chicago scene in the late ’50s, he was using an acoustic guitar with a pickup on early Byrds tracks. He switched to the Rickenbacker electric 12-string after The Searchers (and, by then, George Harrison) were using one. Plus we appropriated their intro to ‘Needles and Pins’ for our ‘I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better’. 

“The Searchers were a bit smoother than we were, and less adventurous. But I think we identified more with The Searchers than with The Beatles……..”

Tom Petty on choosing  When You Walk In The Room as his 5th favourite British Invasion Record

“I restrained myself from listing a bunch of their records. The 12 string guitar fascinated me and they had great voices”

 Quote from Steve Priest of The Sweet`s autobiography Are You Ready Steve? Regarding Frank Allen`s influence on his bass playing.

“It was while watching the bass player of The Rebel Rousers, Frankie Allen who later joined The Searchers, that my playing style changed. Instead of using his thumb to pluck the strings he used the three fingers of his right hand. I thought that looked really cool and went home and practiced. It was painful at first but I soon mastered it.”

 

In less happy circumstances they were even forced to take a former member to court in order to save their name and protect their future in the entertainment industry.

The Searchers were founded by guitarist John McNally (he started the outfit like so many other kids of the day as a skiffle group in the late fifties) and along with bassist/front man Frank Allen who left hit-making band Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers to replace Tony Jackson on August 3rd 1964 they still maintain the heritage and reputation of the band which today is almost regarded as a national treasure. There have of course been changes in the line-up.

Following Jackson`s 1964 departure Chris Curtis, the drummer and charismatic showman of the band, was to quit at the end of a tour of Australia in March `66 where they had been co-headlining a tour along with The Rolling Stones, a coupling which Frank Allen has wittily described as putting Mother Theresa with Vlad The Impaler. An odd pairing perhaps but a hugely successful venture.

Curtis, in a mentally fragile state at the time, no longer wished to endure the rigours of touring and could not be persuaded to stay. In fact the drum stool, currently occupied by Scott Ottaway, has seen the most changes over the years. Scott is the fifth to fill the position since the band`s professional inception back in 1962 and has at this point been a Searcher for over five years.

In the vocal department things have been more constant with Spencer James taking over from Mike Pender in 1986 and still handling the majority of the lead vocals today. Pender`s departure saw them enduring one of the band`s least pleasant episodes in its history due to the inevitable court case that ensued when their right to the name was in dispute. McNally and Allen were successful and remain owners of that title in law.

The association with the aforementioned Cliff Richard provided them with their largest audience ever somewhat late in their career. In the summer of 1989 Britain`s first pop knight requested their presence to help him celebrate his thirty years as a star and in fact the audience numbered 80,000 on not one but on each of two days at the giant football stadium.

Indeed Sir Cliff on another occasion was backed by The Searchers during a charity show at the world famous Wentworth Golf Club and even Cliff`s Shadows would have to admit their accompaniment was not too shoddy at all.

Their presentation has changed radically over the years. In the first flush of chart success a top of the bill spot consisted of a mere twenty minutes giving them barely enough time for half a dozen songs. Nowadays, still in their iconic high cut three button black suits, white shirts and black ties, they occupy the stage for the entire evening presenting what is essentially a history of the band in music and anecdotes lasting for a full two hours.

Tales of their travels and amusing stories of happenings along the way occupy the spaces between the hits, the B sides, the album tracks and other selections that colour their career whether as tributes to fellow artistes or culled from their later recordings which, though maybe less well known are still in constant demand from their ardent followers.

The distinctive jangle of the twelve string guitar remains a most important feature of their sound and those rich and vibrant harmonies still embellish the songs that have provided a soundtrack to the lives of so many. The eternal popularity of this legendary group ensures that the demand for concerts is always there but the real reason for maintaining that exhausting work rate is the best reason of all, the love of their music and appreciation of their heritage.

It goes without saying that the final run of concerts are going to be sell-outs everywhere and the evenings ahead will be a mixture of both happiness and sadness for many. But the music is not going to die. It will be there forever and their songs will be sung forever and if at any time in the future The Searchers wish to come out of retirement for a concert or two there will no doubt be dancing in the streets. This is a much loved band. They appreciate everything they have been given and have always strived to give back in return.

Tickets for The Searchers at Camberley Theatre on March 29th can be bought by clicking here.

 

 

Filming the Sleeping Beauty Cast!

We had a very busy day yesterday filming the cast of  Sleeping Beauty – first of all at the theatre and then around Camberley Town Centre.

Luckily Drippy the Dragon looked after the Box Office for us while we were working.

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Until he became Sleeping Beauty himself and nodded off, poor love!

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We didn’t work him too hard though, and he was rewarded with a bag of jelly babies and a little sit-down afterwards.

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The cast were all interviewed and sang lovely Christmas songs for us – they are all a bit forgetful though and forgot some of the words. We’ll need your help to remember these – more on our social media pages about this soon. You might win two family tickets to see ‘Sleeping Beauty’ if you can help us out!

Nanny Nee Naw and Princess Aurora then went off on a shopping trip around town and even stopped off to help sell some fruit and veg!

 

Tickets for ‘Sleeping Beauty’ are on sale now and some shows have actually already sold out. For more details click here.

Meet our 2018 panto cast!

This year we are all set to present a brand new adaptation of the classic fairy-tale, Sleeping Beauty. Following 2017’s Peter Pan which received glowing reviews and became our most successful pantomime ever; we hope to make this year’s pantomime even bigger and better than ever!

We are very pleased to announce that Louise Young will play Princess Aurora. Louise grew up in Lightwater and went to Collingwood College secondary school and sixth form. She was inspired to become an actress by her drama teacher Mrs Roberts and went on to train at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Princess Aurora

Louise Young will play Princess Aurora

Louise said “Having grown up in Lightwater, Camberley has always held a special place in my heart. After four years of working in London, I’m so excited to bring the Christmas spirit home.”

Letitia Hector, Chanai Ankrah and Monique Ashe-Palmer will play the super soulful fairies Here, There and Everywhere. They’ve got attitude, sass and incredible vocals!

Fairies

Fairy Here, Fairy There and Fairy Everywhere

Every pantomime needs a dame! Nick Wymer will make his debut at Camberley Theatre as the warm, witty and wonderful Nanny Nee Naw. Nanny Nee Naw carries a torch for the majestic King Cedric who will be played by Alan Mitchell.

Nanny Nee Naw

Meet Nanny Nee Naw

King Cedric

Nanny Nee Naw loves King Cedric

Melanie Stevens will take on the role of Carabosse, the most evil fairy of them all. Carabosse has cursed Princess Aurora meaning on her eighteenth birthday she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and be lost forever in a deep sleep.

Carabosse

The evil Carabosse – Boooooooo!

The lovable palace jester Muddles will be played by Ewan Goddard. He is truly, madly deeply in love with Princess Aurora but will he tell her? Steve Banks will play the dashing and handsome Prince Florizel who will do everything he can to try and save Princess Aurora.

sleepingbeautymuddles

The lovely jester Muddles

Prince Florizel

Meet the dashing Prince Florizel

Sleeping Beauty Producer and Camberley Theatre Manager Andy Edmeads said “Following the success of Peter Pan, we are hugely excited to bring this magical and enchanting pantomime to life this Christmas. Expect energetic choreography, singalong songs, laugh out loud jokes and a plenty of audience interaction!”

Will Prince Florizel find his way through the enchanted forest? Will Princess Aurora ever wake up? You’ll have to come along to find out!

Join all the cast on a magical adventure full of fun, laughs and audience interaction. This brand new pantomime is not to be missed. Sleeping Beauty runs from 10-31 December 2018. Book now via the website www.camberleytheatre.co.uk.