Ash bending over backwards to ensure stage hit

A shot from the rehearsals of the Mamma Mia production coming to Blackpool. From left to right (top row) James Royden-Lyley, Scott Mobley, Aaron Ashley Parker, Tom Stanford-Wheatley, Blackpool's Ashley Luke Lloyd. Kade Ferraiolo (bottom row) Bart Edwards. PHOTO BYLINE ... by Alastair Muir.
A shot from the rehearsals of the Mamma Mia production coming to Blackpool. From left to right (top row) James Royden-Lyley, Scott Mobley, Aaron Ashley Parker, Tom Stanford-Wheatley, Blackpool's Ashley Luke Lloyd. Kade Ferraiolo (bottom row) Bart Edwards. PHOTO BYLINE ... by Alastair Muir.
0
Have your say

Ashley Luke Lloyd is sitting in a vest with sweat dripping from his forehead.

He’s been on his feet for the last 10 hours and all he wants to do is get home and have a shower.

It says a lot about him as a person, therefore, that with good grace and a cheery demeanour he spends quarter of an hour or so nattering with his local paper about the adventure of a lifetime he is about to embark on.

For those who don’t know Ashley, a quick recap.

He went to Revoe Primary and Bispham High schools. His dad was in the Army at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland, while his brother is a paratrooper on duty in Afghanistan.

So it was something of a surprise when young Ashley, surely a soldier in the making if ever there was one, announced he was going to be an actor.

It’s proved a good choice. He has appeared in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Whistle Down The Wind and the West End production of Billy Elliot, been on TV (Waterloo Road, Doctors), and starred in a film which comes out next year.

And now the most exciting moment of the 22-year-old’s acting career’s thus far – he has been selected to play one of the lead roles in Mamma Mia, a musical which has been a smash hit in virtually every country on the planet.

It has just began a five-month stint in South Korea (Ashley jetted there last week), before heading to Basle in Switzerland, then Blackpool for a three-month stint next 
summer.

“I’ll be delighted when we finally make it to Blackpool,” he said. “It means as I’m leaving the theatre I can ring my mum and say ‘get the kettle on, I’ll be home in five minutes’.”

I met Ashley at the National Youth Theatre in London, where I watched one of the final rehearsals by the cast before they jetted to Korea to start the mammoth tour.

It was an eye-opener seeing the production outside of a big theatre. When you see a play or musical, you don’t think of the months of rehearsals beforehand, the long days of hard graft by the actors and producers.

“It has been tough,” Ashley tells me, the sweat on his brow proof. “You’re often working 10 hour days and because Mamma Mia is a very energetic show, it’s like a never-ending aerobics workout. You’re constantly on your feet, moving around, singing and dancing.

“But what a fantastic musical to be in and it is brilliant to go off on tour and visit some incredible places.”

Ashley auditioned for the role of Eddie in July and couldn’t sign the contract quick enough when he was offered the part.

He’s looking forward to his stay in South Korea which, not surprisingly, is a place he hasn’t been to before.

“It’s a bit close to North Korea, that’s a bit scary, but I can’t wait because it’s not exactly the kind of place you go on family holidays. I’m getting a chance to experience something most people don’t,” he said.

“For the first month or so we’re staying in Gangham, that place where the Gangham Style song comes from, so I’ll have to watch out for Psy! After that is Switzerland, another place I’ve not been.

“It means I’ll be away from home but I’m kind of getting used to that now.

“I moved out of my parents’ house and live in London now anyway and last year I spent two months in Budapest doing a film.

“I will miss my family though, but I know for a fact my mum will be on the phone checking I’m eating healthily and going to the gym. She’s just like any mum – a worrier but in a lovely way.”

Ashley was scouted by Blackpool’s Scream Theatre School when he was eight and chosen to star in a Kinder Egg advert. Acting is all he’s wanted to do ever since, though it begs the question how did his family, with its strong Army connections, deal with his career choice.

“I get asked this all the time because it is the obvious question, but my dad was absolutely fine with it,” Ashley explained.

“He could see how passionate I was about acting and he was passionate about his work with the army, so it’s the same thing – just a different job.

“When I started at Scream it was a just a case of giving me a hobby because I had so much energy. I think they thought if theatre school would get me out of the house and shut me up for a bit then it was fine with them.

“Both my mum and dad are really proud of what I’ve done since, but they’re just as proud of my brother when he gets promoted in the Army or my sister, who got really good GCSE results and is a brilliant dancer.”

What with Korea and Switzerland to come, Blackpool seems a long way off at the moment, but Ashley is already looking forward to Mamma Mia arriving at the Opera House.

It will be the first time in more than 10 years the resort has hosted a summer season of a major West End musical.

“I’m so excited about it, not least because a lot of my school friends will finally get a chance to find out what I do for a living,” he laughs.

“At school I was the kid that used to go away for three months. I’m not sure they actually know what I do.

“I will be pretty nervous because I know people like my old headmaster are coming to see it and it’s always harder performing in front of people you know rather than strangers.

“In fact the most nervous I get is when we sit down for Christmas dinner and my mum says ‘oh Ash, sing us a song?’ Performing in front of 3,000 people is no problem compared to that.”

What’s striking about the lad is his lack of edge. He’s been in the theatre business most of his life now, yet seems to have avoided getting a big-time Charlie attitude.

“I hope so,” he replies. “I mean don’t get me wrong, if I’m filming outside and it’s freezing I’d be like anyone else and ask for a coat.

“But you can’t have an ego because if you do in this business then you tend not to get work. Besides I wouldn’t want to be in the company of someone who was a diva so why would I be like that with someone else?”

Ashley is now on the other side of the world, performing eight Mamma Mia shows a week in Korea for the next five months. “It’’s pretty full on,” he said. “There are two shows on a Saturday and a Sunday. Monday is our only day off. I think I’ll be spending that day on the sofa recovering.”

You can see Ashley when Mamma Mia heads to Blackpool’s Opera House from June 20-August 31 next year.

Tickets staring at £20 are available from www.blackpoollive.co.uk