How teen’s Twitter message convinced a West End superstar to write and direct Sheringham Little Theatre panto
06:30 28 June 2012
He is used to huge crowds as the leading light in the London production of The Phantom of the Opera.
But he will have to get used to a more intimate venue in December - thanks to a teenage tweeter whose persistence persuaded Killian Donnelly to write and direct Sheringham Little Theatre’s pantomime.
Katie Thompson, 14, has pulled off a coup that casting veterans would be proud of by convincing Mr Donnelly to swap the West End for the east coast.
He will direct his own version of panto favourite Jack and the Beanstalk, which will run at the tiny theatre from December 5 to January 5.
And it is all down to Katie, who has proved the truth of the saying: “If at first you don’t succeed...”
The youngster, whose mum Debbie Thompson is the Little Theatre director, initially took an interest in Mr Donnelly after watching him star as Raoul in the smash-hit musical at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket.
She said: “I then started following him on Twitter and found him really funny. When I found out he wrote pantomime scripts, I asked mum to contact his agent to see if we could use one for the Little Theatre.
“But after a few weeks, she had still had no reply - so I decided to tweet him directly myself when she wasn’t looking.”
Katie, a year nine Sheringham High School pupil who is passionate about performing herself, said she was stunned to receive a direct reply on the micro-blogging website.
She said: “I think Killian Donnelly is amazing. I couldn’t believe it when he replied - I spent several minutes running around squealing.”
Mr Donnelly, 28, from County Meath, Ireland, admitted he was “not familiar with” Sheringham and “knew very little about” Norfolk.
But he said: “I was delighted when she sent me the message. I am very excited to be writing for Sheringham Little Theatre and directing there, and am looking forward to seeing just how well an Irishman can make people in Norfolk laugh.”
The stage star has been in Phantom since September last year. He has also played the role of Enjolras, in Les Miserables, at Queen’s Theatre, London, and Collins in Michael Collins, at the Cork Opera House.
His television work includes appearances in Showbands, The Last Furlong, Batchelors Walk, The Tudors, The Late Late Show and Open House.
He said: “I do also write pantomimes, comedy sketches and songs. Katie followed me on Twitter and as a result was aware of this other work.”
Mrs Thompson said she still found it hard to believe her daughter’s Twitter hobby had resulted in such a coup.
“It is such an exciting piece of news for the Sheringham Little Theatre,” she said. “I really didn’t think Katie’s suggestion would come to anything and when we had no reply from the agent, I did say she should forget the idea.
“But Katie really believed that Killian would be perfect for Sheringham – and she was right.”
She added: “His script is really funny. I am very impressed with the way he has managed to keep the traditional fairytale while also bringing in some modern twists.”
Millions of people around the world use Twitter to send messages to each other and to follow those they are interested in.
Among the most famous users in the UK are Norfolk-born television presenter Stephen Fry, comedian Ricky Gervais and TV chef Jamie Oliver.