Stage set for Sheldon pupil's starring role

Fergus Drysdale, who will star in Oliver! at the Bristol Hippodrome, with his silver Lamda acting award

Fergus with the Radio Times promoting Lark Rise to Candleford

First published in News by , Senior reporter

Teenage actor Fergus Drysdale will take to the stage at the Bristol Hippodrome next week.

The 13-year-old from Chippenham is part of the cast of Oliver! The Musical and will be appearing alongside Neil Morrissey of Men Behaving Badly fame.

Fergus is one of just 24 children to be picked for the show out of hundreds of hopeful applicants.

He has overcome foot surgery to take part in gruelling rehearsals involving singing and dancing for six hours a day.

Fergus, who attends Sheldon School in Chippenham, will appear on stage several times as a poor street boy. He is looking forward to the opening night on Tuesday, when he will meet Mr Morrissey for the first time.

“It’ll be great to meet him, he’s a good actor,” said Fergus, who will perform every other day for five weeks. “We rehearsed all through the Christmas holidays – it was tiring, but fun.”

His school tutor, Bridget Collins, who used to teach him drama, said: “He’s such a humble, modest young lad.

“Despite having had a lot of corrective operations on his foot over the years, he always manages to remain extremely positive and has always kept on auditioning.”

Fergus has attended Sonnets Theatre Arts School in Chippenham since last September but had been with Curtain Up in Melksham from the age of five.

The schoolboy has achieved a silver medal for acting from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (Lamda).

A spokesman for Lamda said it was quite unusual for a 13-year-old to pass this exam, which was normally entered by 15-year-olds.

Fergus first tasted fame aged eight when he appeared as Frank Timmins in the BBC dramatisation of Lark Rise to Candleford. His screen dad was Brendan Coyle, who now plays valet John Bates in Downton Abbey.

Fergus made his film debut as an extra in The Wolfman in 2010.

Now in Oliver! he will share a stage with Hollywood film star Samantha Barks, currently appearing in Les Miserables, who will play the role of Nancy.

Fergus said he was inspired to give acting a go when he saw youngsters on television.

He said: “It was seeing the young kids on CBBC that inspired me. It was amazing seeing myself on telly. My ambition is to work on a film abroad, so I get a nice holiday.”

Oliver! opens at Bristol Hippodrome on Tuesday and runs until February 24.

Tickets are available at www.atgtickets.com or by calling 0844 871 3012.

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