New role for Wolsey

FROM ugly sister to drunken solicitor to sleazy tabloid journalists, Kraig Thornber's experience on the New Wolsey stage has seen some very different incarnations.

By Jo Macdonald

FROM ugly sister to drunken solicitor to sleazy tabloid journalists, Kraig Thornber's experience on the New Wolsey stage has seen some very different incarnations.

But to fully immerse himself in he latest of the three roles has required a touch of magic.

It is for this reason that among the accreditations for A Mad World, My Masters, the current in-house production at the Ipswich theatre, more than a passing nod is given to magician Michael Fitch.


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It was he who was brought in as consultant to the show, who taught Kraig all the necessary tricks needed to make his character Mr Fox as devious an unscrupulous as possible.

"He's a tabloid journalist and is looking for dirt on everybody," Kraig explained of his current incarnation. "He uses magic as a way to get to people. They'll say that's clever and he'll then go in for the story. It's a sweetener."

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Kraig has had only three weeks to master the necessary tricks for the show, including making flowers appear from nowhere and blowing up a balloon only for it to turn into a bottle of champagne, and knows he will be uneasy come opening night tonight .

"It's great fun but very nerve wracking," he confessed. "It's the most nervous I've ever been. I don't get nervous acting, singing, dancing or playing instruments but this is new to me.

"I've had to work very, very hard to do the slight of hand and have been practising hour upon hour. You should be able to do the tricks with your eyes closed before you show anyone but I've only had three wicks."

Stressing that he hasn't learned anything too complicated he added: "I'm not David Copperfield. I'm not going to be turning a leopard into an aeroplane."

The chance to learn from Michael is an experience he treasures and Michael equally enjoyed working with Kraig, Peter Rowe, director of A Mad World, My Masters, and the rest of the cast.

"The actor approaches magic from a very different point of view than Joe Public," Michael said. "The actor understands the importance of body language, eye contact and timing and all these are central to what the magician does. Magic is of course a huge bluff and to carry it off, the magician needs to be an actor.

"Peter, the actors and myself have had a huge amount of fun developing the magic you see. I hope it takes you by surprise and reawakens the child inside."

Kraig is now looking forward to taking to the stage with his magic tricks in the New Wolsey's latest production, which he calls "a Monty Python-esque farce".

He was most recently seen as Rispolozhensky in A Family Affair but was first at the theatre as Hernia in Cinderella – The Rock n Roll Panto last Christmas.

"It was just like coming home," he said of his return. "I had such a wonderful time with the pantomime and it felt like Ipswich took us to its heart."

Kraig's next role sees him stepping into the shoes of Abanazar in this year's Wolsey Pantomime, Aladdin, which opens on December 5.

A Mad World, My Masters is at the New Wolsey Theatre from today to October 19. Tickets cost £5.95 to £19.95 and are available from the theatre box office, in Civic Drive, Ipswich, by calling )1473 295900 or online at www.wolseytheatre.co.uk

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