CASTING CALL FOR ‘THE DAY MUHAMMAD ALI CAME TO SOUTH SHIELDS’

Published: 12th January 2018

The ‘greatest year’ in South Tyneside’s history has inspired the latest community production at The Customs House in South Shields – and local people can be part of it.

The town welcomed two special visitors in 1977 – Her Majesty the Queen and professional boxer and Heavyweight Champion of the World, Muhammad Ali.

Ali’s visit provides the backdrop to the new musical from the award-winning Dance to Your Daddy team, The Day Muhammad Came to South Shields.

The play will be directed by Jamie Brown, who also directed award-winning Geordie The Musical and has appeared in many shows at The Customs House, including Catherine Cookson’s The Cinder Path and The Man and the Donkey in 2015.

The musical director is Andrew Clarence, who was also musical director of the award-winning The Customs House Summer School production of Legally Blonde last year, and the play has been written by David Cooke and Grahame Wright.

Jamie said: “I’m delighted to be directing at The Customs House again.  After the critical success of Geordie the Musical, I suppose expectation will be high, but it’s a fascinating story, with some great characters, and David and Grahame have created an excellent script and score – so it has the potential to be special.

“To have members of the community telling the story of one of the most extraordinary episodes in its history is an ideal marriage, and with cultural, socio-political themes that are as relevant now as they were during the 1970s, the show is by no means simply a shallow trip down memory lane. I’m very excited to get started.”

The story is told from the point of view of teenager Joe Kelly, who can’t believe his luck whne his sporting hero comes to his hometown.

He has a great idea that will get everyone talking, make his dad proud and impress his friends and more importantly Maya, the girl next door – there’s just a few obstacles to overcome. All he needs is a bit of help from the great man himself.

Auditions are being held at The Customs House on Sunday, January 14, for the principal roles and ensemble, with rehearsals beginning on Tuesday, January 23.

Interested parties should e-mail a CV and headshot to shieldsali@live.co.uk before Friday, January 12.

Principal cast members will be asked to commit to rehearsals on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, between 6.30pm and 9pm, with company rehearsals on Sundays from 11am to 5pm. All cast members must be available during the week of performance.

The principal roles are as follows:

Joe (male, 16-18) – An aspirational Shields lad, looking to make his mark on the world, Joe has a secret passion for boxing, a sport his father is dead against. With his idol, Muhammad Ali, set to visit his home town, he is torn between attempting to meet his sporting hero and defying his father’s wishes. Boxing experience would be welcomed, but not essential.

Joseph (male, 56) – Joseph exists in 2017, and it is his trip down memory lane that instigates the story. A narrator figure, Joseph treads the line between knowing how he felt at the time in 1977, accompanied by the added wisdom of hindsight.

Jack (male, 40) – Father to Joe, Jack is widowed, and attempts to keep his son on the straight and narrow whilst fearing he can’t live up to his role as a single father. As well as his day job, he is also a respected local councillor, and hopes his role in organising the upcoming visit of the Queen will be something to make his son proud. He seems to be a modern thinker, a strong advocate of social justice and multiculturalism.

Maya (female, 16-18) – Maya is a headstrong teenager, compelled by the upcoming Punk movement of the 1970’s. Born in Shields to a Yemeni (Arabic) mother and English father, Maya aims to blaze her own trail in life, but finds her Mother’s concern that she doesn’t lose her own identity – and Arabic heritage – stifling. Strong willed, but ultimately caring, the character must, to some degree, represent the anarchistic nature of the Punk revolution.

Aiden (male, 16-18) – Aiden exudes confidence but, as with many teenagers, this is a tactic to obscure a chink in his own armour. He is a Glam Rocker – idolising the likes of Marc Bolan and David Bowie – and seems to be striving to find his own place in the modern world, despite his somewhat backward-looking father. Boxing experience would be welcomed, but not essential.

Sabriah (female, 40) – Mother to Maya, Sabriah is of Yemeni (Arabic) heritage though she has lived in South Shields for most of her life. A divorcee, she is keen for her daughter not to make the same mistakes she did, and struggles to come to terms with her daughter becoming a Punk, turning her back somewhat on her heritage.

Nana (female, 60+) – Joe’s Nana offers sage advice to both Joe and Jack throughout the story. Sharp-witted and caring, at times she appears to be the glue holding the family together.

Irish (male, 40) – Not actually Irish (but of Irish descent), Irish is built up as a bit of a rogue, with nationalistic, if not outright racist, ideals. That said, he also helped Jack to cope after his wife died, which has led to the pair’s friendship remaining strong despite their differing ideals and opinions.

The Day Muhammad Ali Came to South Shields runs at The Customs House from Tuesday, March 6, to Saturday, March 10, with performances at 7.30pm and a 2.30pm matinee on the Saturday.

Tickets, priced from £7, are available from the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or online at www.customshouse.co.uk.