West End Harry Potter star bringing new show to Gainsborough

Theo Ancient stars in The Shy Manifesto in Gainsborough next month
Theo Ancient stars in The Shy Manifesto in Gainsborough next month

From cursed child to shy teenager, actor Theo Ancient is swapping the bright lights of West End for the humbler surroundings of Trinity Arts Centre next month when he stars in bittersweet comedy drama The Shy Manifesto at the venue.

And as he swaps wizardry for real life, the former Harry Potter star has talked about magical experiences and hiding in corners.
In a world where fame and lusting for the spotlight is worshipped, this is the dilemma explored by new play The Shy Manifesto, currently taking the tale of bashful teenager Callum around the UK.
Paradoxically, this one-man show about introversion and limelight dodging is a world away for Theo from his time in arguably the most high profile play in the world, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
He said, of stepping into JK Rowling’s magical creation: "It’s a job like no other.
"It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, there was so much excitement and anticipation in the theatre.
"I would stand backstage 10 minutes before the start and just listen to the audience, you could feel their excitement.
And it seems that no matter where you go, if you say you’re a part of Harry Potter, people light up.”
Ancient enchanted the audition panel and won the role of Harry’s son, Albus Potter as he was about to graduate from RADA.
His first professional job after drama school was in the most talked about stage production in years, performing to an audience of thousands each night.
The Shy Manifesto will be different.
It's tour takes in far more intimate venues and there’s not a wand in sight.
That said, it’s not entirely dissimilar.
Theo continued: “I’ve always been drawn to work on pieces that explore humanity.
"I’ve played characters who start off lacking confidence then go on an epic journey where they find confidence and end up saving the world.
"The Shy Manifesto, even though it’s not a magical journey, really explores the human nature of that and what it means to be a young person and feel like an outsider.”
Written by Michael Ross, The Shy Manifesto tells the story of Callum, a 17-year-old who believes that shyness should be celebrated rather than apologised for and overcome.
He shares his thoughts about famous shy people, how the world sees him and how friends and family have tried to help, before delving into the story of a party from the night before.
As that tale unravels, the audience is left to decide whether there’s hope for him and his future?
Theo said: "The play gives a character like Callum the chance to say everything that’s going on inside his mind, when normally he would keep quiet at the back of the class and not say anything at all.
"We give him a voice and ask, ‘what would he say?'
"It’s a coming of age story that explores our insecurities and growing up as an introvert.”
Callum's situation is something Theo himself can relate to.
At school, teachers would remark about how he’d rather take a book into a corner than join in more social activities.
While he did 'toy with the idea of dying my hair black and riding a skateboard', he quickly found his 'sense of belonging' in drama groups and acting.
He recalled: “All I wanted to do was act and perform, I never really fitted in anywhere else.”
When he’s not playing the son of wizarding legends or taking new shows on tour, Theo runs drama groups and works with children and young people.
He explained: "As an actor who now has a few credits, I feel a responsibility to give back the experiences I had when I was growing up and hopefully inspire a new generation.”
That’s one reason why, as The Shy Manifesto tours the country, Theo will also offer a variety of workshops to schools, universities and the public, exploring a host of topics, from conjuring multiple characters in a one-man show to the responsibilities of telling a mental health story, to the character and to himself as a performer.
He said: As an actor, we put ourselves in a position of vulnerability every time we go on stage.
"You never get used to that. There are all sorts of self-doubts that creep in while you’re performing, so to have an output for those thoughts and feelings, no matter how rational or
irrational they are, is really important.
“What’s wonderful about drama is there’s no right or wrong, so you can explore absolutely anything you want.
It’s one of the reasons he’s so passionate about the drama groups and workshops.
He said: "Where I could have been pursuing my rebellious streak as a teenager, I was creating something every week, working with other people and learning more about myself through drama.”
“As we move to different theatres and communities, there will be a different feeling and response to the show.
"I’ll have to change my performance slightly to fit each space.
"As an actor, it will be a really wonderful challenge. Each day is a new possibility and each place will have something else to discover.”
“I hope people will come along to the theatre and fall in love with Callum and his story.
"I hope they will go on a rollercoaster with him and leave feeling elated, excited, full of questions and debate and, hopefully, inspired.”
The Shy Manifesto is at Trinity Arts Centre in Gainsborough on February 12.
Tickets are £15 and £13 on 01427 676655 or www.trinityarts.co.uk