Aroundtown MEETS

‘He has also written shows about the comedy heroes of his childhood, such as Les Dawson, Tommy Cooper and Hoyland’s first son of comedy, the levitating, optical illusionist and ventriloquist, Harry Worth.’

Lamproom. A comedy which hits the heights and heartstrings, it originally formed part of Jack’s university dissertation and became a box-office sell out this September. “I prefer working with women and not many male writers can write for the female voice. But I grew up around so many strong women such as my Nan, Mum and maternal aunts so I take a lot of inspiration from them.” From grieving women to merry men, Jack’s says his most recent offering, an adult pantomime called Throbbin’ Hood, really did push the X-rated boundaries.

“It was true escapism and not for the easily offended but, ultimately, it was British variety at its best which went down a storm.”

While humour and horseplay embody Jack’s work, at the heart are also relatable topics that incite emotion, blurring the line between comedy and drama as in real life. To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike in 2014, Jack produced his favourite show to date, From Grimethorpe with Love. When Grimey pit closes, the protagonist, Jim Travis, decides to go 50 shades of coal and start writing erotic novels.

“It’s my favourite piece mainly due to the ending, a highly emotive

The Coalfield Symphony

rendering of the first chapter of Jim’s book – The Coal Miner’s Mistress - which he’s entered into a woman’s magazine short story competition. He’s reading it to his wife who’s just had her bunions off in hospital but what she doesn’t know is that he changed his entry before submitting it.

“It was moving to see grown men in the audience openly weep at what they were hearing.” While all well-received by audiences, one production has proved so popular that Jack is currently working on a third instalment. Based around a Motown clubland act, The Booze Cruise, the latest show in The Booze Brothers saga, will see the Barton brothers leave Sodom Working Men’s Club behind for the high seas. How Jack will recreate the inside of a ‘luxury’ liner at The Lamproom is definitely not an opportunity to be missed. For all his shows, Jack works with a tight unit of actors, most of whom are not professional - not that you’d know. Many just share a love and enthusiasm for theatre and Jack relishes the opportunity to help them build on their talents. “I like writing for someone you know is going to play a character as you can hear their voice in your head.”

On stage with Billy Pearce

He has also written shows about the comedy heroes of his childhood, such as Les Dawson, Tommy Cooper and Hoyland’s first son of comedy, the levitating, optical illusionist and ventriloquist, Harry Worth.

He has even co-written this year’s pantomime for The Lamproom, which is Mother Goose. While writing backstage is where he feels most at home, Jack has also become a seasoned performer who has taken the spotlight in many productions.

Since 2016, he has been

a well-loved addition to the casting books at Qdos

Entertainment, the world’s biggest pantomime producer. Working alongside panto royalty such as Billy Pearce, Lesley Joseph and Duncan James from Blue, Jack has donned various wigs and heavy makeup to play Dame Betty Blumenthal in Snow White at Plymouth Theatre Royal, and Cinderella’s Ugly Sisters at Bradford Alhambra and Bromley Churchill Theatre.

“When I first auditioned, I didn’t know who I was auditioning in front of which is probably a good thing as I’d have been a lot more nervous. But I thought, ‘what have I got to lose?’

“I went in and said, ‘before we start, shall I just put this on now?’ And I pulled out an oversized padded tartan brassiere. The ice was broken and you could see the cogs of inspiration turning. They said I reminded them of someone from the ‘good old days’ of the business. It’s been a very fruitful relationship.” This year, he is swapping his


corset for a cassock as he takes on the role of Friar Tuck alongside dance troupe Diversity at the Southend Cliffs Pavilion run of Robin Hood.

Squeezing 40 performances into three weeks and spending Christmas away from family sure isn’t easy. But life isn’t such a drag; his parents will be joining him in Essex to spend Christmas Day together once they’ve finished performing their Christmas gigs in Manchester.

Alongside his panto

performances, Jack is also a prolific self-taught singer-songwriter and regularly collaborates with composer, arranger and musical director, Robert Cooper, to produce contemporary orchestral shows under the Coalfield Symphony banner. Together, they have released two EPs and given various live performances. For country and western fans, Jack also performs as the Coalfield Cowboy which first began as a charity gig for the Teenage Cancer Trust some years ago.

As a man on many talents, Jack also writes his own music and tries to fuse original scores into his shows where possible. “I prefer to write and direct but I’m often hoodwinked into performing and make a regular, if somewhat discreet, appearance in many of my shows. I chose theatre as I love the live audience, it’s quite a spiritual experience being in that moment in time with them. “But be it 2,000 people at Bradford Alhambra or coming home to the intimacy of 200 people at The Lamproom, you just can’t beat the sound of laughter. It’s infectious.”

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