Luke’s Back – Fight to get a ticket!!

Lifestyle / Tue 27th Sep 2016 pm30 03:21pm

Luke’s Back – Fight to get a ticket!!

By Ian Beckett

THE reverse of actor Ben Maytham’s T-shirt when he’s not on stage says “Luke’s Back” and for pun lovers like me it’s wonderful news. Just over two years ago I had the privilege and the pleasure of seeing “Living with Luke”, an astonishing piece of theatre written and directed by Paul T. Davies, in the school hall of Passmores Academy, Harlow. From the moment the final performance ended in July 2014 the cast, crew and devoted groupies – “Lukies” – have worked tirelessly to ensure that the play reaches as wide an audience as possible.

“Living with Luke” is a 60 minute play, adapted from the blogs written by Danson Thunderbolt, exploring the relationship between Danson and his autistic teenage son, Luke.

Oh, and it’s set in a wrestling ring. The performance takes place in a full size wrestling ring and includes full-on wrestling. Although I have seen people recoil at that idea believe me the poignancy of the poetry of such a setting is just one of the many things that makes “Living With Luke” so remarkable.

The play tells the true life story of the relationship between Danson and his son Luke who was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. It is absolutely a story about a father and son. That’s key because Steve Hannam who plays Danson Thunderbolt is Luke’s real-life father. Steve says that soon after Luke was diagnosed with autism one of the things he did was searched online for information about other people’s real experiences of the condition. Steve said “There was a lot written from the perspective of mothers of children with autism but very little from men.” That was where the idea of the blogs came from and the words, describing Luke’s life from infancy to adolescence with all the challenges, heartache and humour – yes a lot of humour especially if you like it black – are the backbone of this production.

“Living with Luke” began life at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester in 2014 and returned there for a run a year later. In between that it played to packed houses at two of Harlow’s academies Passmores and Burnt Mill and has subsequently visited The Rhodes Centre in Bishops Stortford on two occasions. Last night, the original cast returned to begin their Autumn Tour at The Spotlight in Broxbourne and true to form received a standing ovation from an audience predominantly made up of young people.

After the show I witnessed something I had heard about but never seen. The cast, as is customary with these shows, came out to mingle and chat to the audience. A group of three women were transfixed by every move Ben Maytham (who has played Luke) was making and eventually one of them said “so you’re not actually autistic then?” It’s a question and a reaction that Ben has grown accustomed to. “No” he replied, bristling with pride “I’m an actor”. The conversation continued with one of the women remarking about how she couldn’t take her eyes of Ben’s hands during the performance. Ben is most certainly an actor and a consummate one at that.

I spoke to Steve Hannam briefly after the show and said to him that I still can’t work out who should play Danson when it gets to Hollywood. “Me of course” replied Steve with a wink and therein lies something I wrestle with. Could “Living with Luke” work with anyone else in the lead role other than Steve? The answer has to be of course it could. It’s a tremendous piece of writing that no doubt many actors would fight to get their hands on and remember 50 years ago no-one could imagine anyone other than Sean Connery as James Bond or William Hartnell at Dr Who!

“Living with Luke” is still a piece of new writing and new theatre but Steve Hannam is a Harlow man through and through and therefore the play deserves to have a space reserved for it in Harlow’s Heritage. It’s follows in a long line of a creativity that the town can and should be truly proud of.
“Living with Luke” is touring to the following venues between now and the end of November:

10-Oct-16 Central Theatre, Chatham

12-Oct-16 Haymarket, Basingstoke

18-Oct-16 Oakengates, Telford

19-Oct-16 Solihull Arts Complex

23-Nov-16 Burnley Mechanics

24-Nov-16 The Grove, Dunstable

25-Nov-16 Albany Theatre, Coventry

More information can be found online: www.facebook.com/livingwithluketheplay/
Or via email [email protected]

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