Ipswich playwright with vocal disability nominated for Olivier

Graham Hubbard built himself a successful career on London's West End, before a vocal disability left him unable to sing.

Graham Hubbard built himself a successful career on London's West End, before a vocal disability left him unable to sing. He has now been nominated for his first Olivier Award. - Credit: The Olivier Awards / Graham Hubbard

An Ipswich man who has battled throat cancer and a vocal disability has been nominated for an Olivier Award. 

Graham Hubbard, 54, has adapted the children’s classic story What the Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson for stage.

The show has received international acclaim and a nomination at the prestigious theatre awards for Best Family Show.

The show is packed with tunes, and has jokes for both children and grown-ups.

The show is packed with tunes, and has jokes for both children and grown-ups. It has been nominated in the 'Best Family Show' category. - Credit: The Olivier Awards

Graham Hubbard grew up in Ipswich, and took part in the youth program of the New Wolsey Theatre

Graham Hubbard grew up in Ipswich, and took part in the youth program of the New Wolsey Theatre. He says he has never felt successful, despite an impressive career. - Credit: Graham Hubbard

“She [the show] has been around the world a couple of times. She was in China for a while, and Singapore, and all sorts of other places. It's been a huge journey,” said Mr Hubbard. 

This is the first Oliver nomination for Mr Hubbard, who grew up in Ipswich and attended Northgate High School.  

He was active in local youth theatre, including at the New Wolsey Theatre, and was accepted into the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. 

Graham worked for many years as an actor, and has worked alongside directors such as Kenneth Branagh. 

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However, a career on the West End was cut short when Graham lost his voice ‘overnight’ in 1999. 

“I was playing Roger in Grease when my first vocal issues hit,” Graham said.

“You don’t get a lot of vocal fold up on stage, so you can’t actually hear yourself singing. As a result, you push and push and push. 

“I obviously pushed too hard.” 

Graham developed laryngeal dystonia, a chronic voice disorder in which the vocal cords spasm uncontrollably. He was left with a ‘croaky’ voice, and unable to sing.  

“I had a beautiful singing voice, and that was a real loss of expression,” he said.  

“In a crowded bar or restaurant, people couldn’t hear a word I was saying. So, I’ve had to trust that opportunities will come to me from writing.” 

He continued to work on his own creative projects. However, he was dealt another blow in 2016 when he was diagnosed with throat cancer. 

Graham recovered, and was given the opportunity to adapt What the Ladybird Heard by theatre producer Kenny Wax. 

Now, he would like to continue writing for the stage, and has more exciting projects planned for the future. 

“The Olivier has been such an endorsement, because I don’t think of myself as successful. I’ve always thought of myself as a struggling actor,” he said. 

“In a way, the nomination alone is enough.” 

The Olivier Awards will be announced on Sunday, April 10. 

Graham says the show is perfect for all the family, and like walking into the book by Julia Donaldson.

Graham says the show is perfect for all the family, and like walking into the book by Julia Donaldson. - Credit: The Olivier Awards+