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From student busking to the Birmingham theatre stage

Jerone on stage with the cast of the play Credit: Manuel Harlan

An actor from Stafford who funded part of his early theatre work by busking as a student, is now getting ready to take to the theatre stage in Birmingham.

Jerone Marsh-Reid plays legendary comedian Stan Laurel before he became famous, in "The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel" at the Birmingham Rep. It focuses on a journey taken in 1910 between Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin.

The story tells the tale of a New York trip between the then-unknown stars, and who then spent time touring North America. Stan would later return to England and find comedy success with Oliver Hardy, and Chaplin would break Hollywood.

The play has been created as part of the "Told by an Idiot" group's participation project, "The Silent Treatment, which works with under-represented theatre makers across the UK.

The production was co-commissioned by the London International Mime Festival - and the writer and director, Paul Hunter, is from Birmingham.

In a special blog below, Jerone writes about his journey from busking as a student, to the Birmingham theatre stage.

Jerone in rehearsals Credit: Manuel Harlan

"I have had a connection with Birmingham ever since I was young. I lived in Stafford but Birmingham was the closest big city, so I would do all my clothes shopping there.

I grew a much greater connection to Birmingham when I joined my dance crew ‘NuBornCru’ as our crew leader and dance teacher taught us in a studio above the Elite 2000 gym in Stafford, and he was living in Edgbaston so we would all head up there to train on the weekends.

As the crew improved we decided we wanted to compete in battles and perform shows which meant we needed money to travel and for company costume. So we laid down a piece of cardboard flooring and busked in the streets of Birmingham.

It was great we were able to train and make money. The people were great too, very generous and would often join in with a little head bop or funky move. After that we performed in many different venues, one of my favourites being the Midlands Arts Centre.

My closest friend then convinced me to go to a performing arts college which I loved so much I applied to drama school, and have just recently graduated from East 15 Acting school. Before I was doing this job I was in another show called ‘Catch Me’ a two-hander with my partner Susan Kempster for the company Upswing.

I’m exciting to be back in Birmingham where I will be performing "The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel" at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. It is going to feel strange performing on a stage when I'm familiar with performing on the streets of Birmingham.

Most importantly though it's tough to expect my family to travel all the way to London to see me perform, so it's great this show is more accessible to them.

I play the part of the legendary comedian Stan Laurel in "The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel". When the theatre company "Told by an Idiot" called me to audition for the role, I really didn't know what to expect.

Stan Laurel is such an iconic figure - and he was white, whereas I am mixed race, so I was intrigued to see why the director had called me in. It was very clear from the moment I met the director, Paul Hunter, that race didn't matter. It was all about finding the essence of Stan and his relationship to Charlie.

After two rounds of auditions I got the part ! I felt a mix of emotions after getting this part, one of those being slightly nervous that I would be playing such a well-known figure, but I mainly felt honoured. There are many great moments in the show and forever changing.

If I had to pick a favourite scene at the moment, it would be when Stan meets Oliver Hardy – with whom he would become one of the most famous double-acts in entertainment history.

They meet in a golfing sketch, which is classic Stan and Ollie - with golf clubs flying round the stage, trousers falling down and trays getting bashed on heads in true slapstick fashion !

I can't wait to get back to Birmingham. It has been over seven years since I last performed there. The city has a vibe that feels like home to me and I don't think that will ever change".

Jerone with the play's cast Credit: Manuel Harlan