Norfolk children can stand the spotlight at Norwich Theatre Royal as they take to the stage in An Inspector Calls

They say never work with children or animals, but one group of local children is proving the old saying wrong.

For this month's big production of An Inspector Calls at the Theatre Royal has three Norfolk schoolchildren in key roles.

Ben Woodhouse and Daniel Stevens, both eight, and nine-year-old Sophie Cox have become success stories for the Central School of Dancing and Performing Arts in St George's Street here in Norwich.

The children have the pivotal non-speaking roles of the working-class children who play in the street.

They move around the stage interacting with characters, making a scene look busy when it needs to be and offer a juxtaposition to the wealthy Birling family in this scathing critique of Edwardian England.

Resident director for this particular tour of the show, Finn Beam of PW Productions in London, said: 'The children are conceptually integral to the whole show.

'They are concentrating very hard. I'm very impressed with their work. They are much easier to work with than adults, they haven't been trained or settled into habits, they are very open to new ideas.'

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The young thespians showed no signs of being daunted by the show. When asked how they were finding it, Ben, from Horsford Junior School, said: 'It's fan-tastic. I find it fun.'

Daniel, who goes to Colby Primary School in North Norfolk and is a fan of Dr Who's Matt Smith, shows he is a confident little chap. When asked how he faces up to the crowds, he said: 'I just think they are not really there.

'It is fun backstage. Today someone was pulling the rope and it pulled them and they flew up in the air!'

Clearly a born performer, Sophie, who goes to Little Plumstead Primary School, said: 'I don't mind if they [crowds] are there. I don't mind people watching me and yes I do like the attention.

'It is brilliant because it is all new, we haven't seen the stage before. being on it is exciting.

'It is an opportunity to do other things that you haven't done before, it builds up your confidence. I would like to be a dancer, as well as an actor.'

The play, which runs until Saturday, also features 12 other local children as extras and understudies.

Ben's mother, Mrs Woodhouse, from Horsford, said: 'They have done panto and so on, but not proper acting, so this is different and really exciting.

'Nothing seems to faze him at the moment, they take it all in their stride. I think we are the ones who get nervous, there won't be a dry eye in the house.'

Daniel's mother, Maria Stevens, from Horstead, near Coltishall, said: 'You can definitely see that as time goes on the confidence really does grow and the more they get into it the stronger they become.'

An Inspector Calls is a production by English director Stephen Daldry, of the play written by English dramatist J. B. Priestley, first performed in 1946 in the UK. It is considered one of the classics of English theatre.

This production has revived the play and boosted its reputation since its first outing in 1992.

See the Theatre Royal website at www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call 01603 630000.

Are you involved in something that has changed your life? Call Joe Wilkes on 01603 772 439 or email joe.wilkes@archant.co.uk.

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