Darker side of life put to music

JONATHAN REDHEAD 24-year-old Joel Horwood, a former head boy at Sir John Leman school in Beccles, could be set for a major career in the theatre after a controversial musical he has written about the other side of life looks set to hit the big time. Mikey the Musical is a cutting, satirical play about the cult of the 'chav' and 'pikey' and will be performed at one of the country's most famous theatres later this week.

JONATHAN REDHEAD

He was brought up in idyllic north Suffolk countryside, miles away from inner-city housing estates and problems with drugs and crime.

In fact, Joel Horwood was so good and so far removed from that lifestyle, he was even head boy at Sir John Leman in Beccles.

But now the 24-year-old could be set for a major career in the theatre after a controversial musical he has written about the other side of life looks set to hit the big time.


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Mikey the Musical is a cutting, satirical play about the cult of the 'chav' and 'pikey' and will be performed at one of the country's most famous theatres later this week.

For those not in the know, a 'chav' or 'pikey' is the current slang term in use for young yobs known for their liking of Burberry clothing and brash gold jewellery – and normally found getting up to no good on council estates up and down the country.

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Now, Mr Horwood and his 24-strong cast and crew are off to Sir Alan Ayckbourn's famous Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, after being selected from more than 90 student productions across the country to take part in the National Student Drama Festival for 2005, beating off the likes of Cambridge Footlights.

The annual festival has helped launch the careers of people like Alan Yentob, Stephen Fry, Meera Syal, Simon Russell Beale and The League of Gentlemen.

Mr Horwood is hoping a positive response to Mikey the Musical could launch a career for him, too.

"Lots of agents and artistic directors are up there to watch and might take to it and we could perhaps end up somewhere like the London Fringe," he said.

"It's a bit weird really. I've always been writing but never plays.

"But having done it, I know its what I want to do."

The idea came to him at home one night and was quickly turned into a play at Kent University, where he was studying.

"I'd had the idea in my head for a while and then a few things happened quite rapidly and I had time on my hands," he said last night.

"I had it in my head and wrote it down in an evening and was writing quite maniacally.

"Next thing, I had pads of paper in my hand and was looking for actors and students."

Initially, the musical was regarded as controversial, but after a publicity drive, which included a fake protest against the production set up by Mr Horwood himself, it was soon selling out at the 350-seat Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury.

Then it was spotted by a couple of 'selectors' from the festival who invited Mr Horwood, who says his home is in Wrentham near Southwold, up to Yorkshire.

But for Mr Horwood, the cult of the chav has a serious side.

"It's not done totally seriously because I want more people to engage in a way they wouldn't do otherwise," he said.

"It's a serious issue, though."

His website, www.mikeythe pikey.com, describes the musical as a "savage, satirical attack upon a society that can ignore even the greatest issues that it creates".

It adds that it "squares off against the concept of sink-estates, drug abuse, backstreet abortion and poverty".

However, before anyone gets a view of Suffolk through rose-tinted spectacles, Mr Horwood does admit that some of his inspiration comes from his home county.

"I got some ideas from Leiston," he said. "It was something I experienced for a while after seeing the heroin addicts and the problems.

"It's all a bunch of my own experiences, but I've made Mikey more of a hardened figure."

Mikey the Musical runs at the festival from March 18 to 25.

For more details, check the website at www.nsdf.org.uk

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