THE stage could be set for young performer Henry Farmer as he nears the end of his role with the first touring production of Billy Elliot.
In July, the curtain will finally come down on the musical and the down-to-earth 12-year-old will return to Haslingden High School in September.
He will have played Michael, Billy’s best mate, in 13 different venues, all over England as well as Cardiff, Dublin and Hamburg in Germany.
He was on stage in front of 3,000 people in Edinburgh and will have spent three-quarters of the last 20 months away from his family home in Haslingden.
His mother Julie, 48, said: “Henry rang me to say, ‘What am I going to do when it ends? I am going to lose all my brothers and sisters.’”
As an only child, Henry suddenly found himself in an unfamiliar environment regularly relocating and staying with other young cast members and getting used to having ‘siblings’.
Four actors play Michael and together with those three, Henry was honoured to pick up the award for Best Young Newcomer in the Manchester Theatre Awards; however, as he was on stage as Michael at the time, he didn’t literally collect it.
Henry said: “Winning the award was really cool. We have all got on really well and that has been really good fun.”
Henry described the relationship between the adult and child cast members as ‘just like a big family’.
“We have never pushed Henry into doing anything he didn’t want to do,” explained his father Paul, 49.
“He wanted to go for the role of Michael and throughout the run we have always said to him that if he ever wanted to walk away from it, we would support him.”
But rather than walk away, Henry has embraced the stage. Mid conversation he suddenly jumps down from the stool and begins going through ballet moves.
He said: “When you go out on stage all you can see is the lights and the first two rows, but the people just look like cardboard cut outs. However the audience pick you up and carry you through your performance and I have loved doing shows with my friends.”
Henry has only been in school sporadically since Year 6 at Haslingden Primary, but has been privately tutored while on the road and has kept up with high school homework.
At Rossendale Dance and Drama Centre in Waterfoot, where his performance talents were been honed, he will be taking exams in tap, ballet, jazz, drama and Irish. He also hopes to work with Summerseat Players, where his dad is a member.
His journey with the Billy crew began in November 2015 when he joined the cast for 13-weeks training and the show has literally been on the road since February 2016.
His parents have seen him at every venue and his mum has been in the audience 54 times. His former primary Headteacher Glyn Ellis also came to see Henry in Edinburgh.
Of potential future roles, Henry added: “I would like to play Luke, one of the characters in the Percy Jackson series of books, but I wouldn’t want to play Billy – you are on the stage almost the whole time of the production and they never stop.”