Coronation Street star Bill Ward on stage at Cast in Doncaster in The Glee Club

Coronation Street and Emmerdale star Bill Ward returns to the stage to star in musical comedy The Glee Club.

Monday, 17th February 2020, 5:07 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 11:08 am
Bill Ward, right, in rehearsals for The Glee Club
Bill Ward, right, in rehearsals for The Glee Club

He’s been in Casualty, Holby City, The Bill, Silent Witness, Doctors – not to mention high-profile roles in Corrie as Charlie Stubbs and Emmerdale as James Barton.

But while TV has made him a household name, the theatre retains a special place in his heart: “A live audience is magnificent, you get instant feedback every night.”

He will be touring the country for several months with the play by Richard Cameron, starting out at Cast in Doncaster before it concludes with a run in London.

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The show was first seen in London in 2002. It was revived seven years ago as the opening show at Cast, which is in writer Richard’s hometown.

Kate Wasserberg’s new production is a co-production with Out of Joint and Kiln Theatre.

Bill said: “It follows six miners, in 1962 in Edlington Colliery, near Doncaster. By day they’re half-a-mile underground, and by night they’re singing close harmony and barber shop songs to unwind and amuse themselves.”

“The play follows them as they begin to rehearse for the annual village gala and we follow them as they face some seismic moments in their lives.”

He added: “I play Bant. He’s a career miner and a loose cannon. He’s funny, he’s violent, he’s a bit of a law unto himself.

“He’s a very kind man, he’s got a heart of gold, but that heart is often covered up by his temper and his willingness to get into fights and trouble of any kind.”

At times uproariously funny, at others achingly poignant, the play is also full of some belting tunes.

“It’s a very rare thing, it’s very funny, with great music, but with a real emotional heart,” said Bill. “You care for every single one of the characters in the play.”

He is relaxed (to the point of being interviewed in bare feet) engaging and funny. But it’s clear he takes his craft very seriously.

A question about whether he did any research for the play elicits a response about books he’s read, technical research he’s done, archive footage he’s watched at the BFI, and statistics about the Barnsley coal seam and the (considerable) danger of working at Edlington.

It’s no surprise to discover that he’s a history graduate.

That love of the past, and thirst for knowledge, also nourishes him when he’s out on tour. “I love seeing the country, going to new places, visiting the museums, looking at the architecture.

“I love the regional differences, the accents, and seeing that kind of stuff first-hand. And we’ll be going to each city for a week, and they’ll all be very different. You can get a real sense of what a place is like in a week.”

Being on the road with the rest of the cast, living cheek-by-jowl for months, is also the ideal environment for a play about six men with bonds forged at the pit-head, who see each other as brothers. These characters live in each other’s pockets, and have done since they were 13.

“They know each other inside out. So it really does help if we all know each other very well and we are spending a lot of time together.”

The show opens at Cast in Doncaster from February 28 to March 7, then goes on national tour until June 27.

Cast box office: castindoncaster.com.

Tour website: www.outofjoint.co.uk/productions/the-glee-club/