Nudity uproar 'due to locality'

The leading lady in a controversial theatre production yesterday blamed provincial Norfolk sensibilities for raising an eyebrow at on-stage nudity.

The leading lady in a controversial theatre production yesterday blamed provincial Norfolk sensibilities for raising an eyebrow at on-stage nudity.

Helen Barford, 29, who stars as Salome in a forthcoming production at Sheringham Little Theatre, said the fuss would never have happened in London.

The Painted Horse theatre company is in the midst of a hectic schedule of rehearsals for the Oscar Wilde play, which opens on March 3 in Sheringham for two nights, before transferring for a final night at Norwich Playhouse.

The show's posters warn of full-frontal nudity and scenes suitable for adults only, and the forthcoming production has been called "tacky" and "unnecessary" by some Sheringham residents.


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Miss Barford, who is from London, said the nudity had been blown out of proportion. "It has been a bit overwhelming. It seems to have just snowballed."

She added: "It is the location. If it were in London – far worse things have happened in London. Once you get out into local areas people care a lot more, whereas in London it is just not a big deal at all."

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Norfolk-bred actor Chris Rankin, who is production manager and also has a part in the play, said: "Certainly if you were to do it in London it wouldn't have got the uproar about the nudity it has here."

The 21-year-old Harry Potter star said three quarters of the tickets had been sold for all three shows, in part because of the publicity.

All those involved stress that the nudity is "artistically done" and a necessary part of the play.

Miss Barford said: "There will be no undressing until the tech rehearsal, which is the day before we open."

She stressed that only her back is seen, more or less in silhouette, during the famous nude scene at the climax of the Dance of the Seven Veils.

The full-frontal nudity advertised belongs to 36-year-old Paul Preston Mills, from Lowestoft, who plays John the Baptist.

He said: "I don't know what it's going to be like, because I haven't taken my clothes off completely yet!"

He said he was baffled by the focus on Salome's momentary nudity, when he is due to spend around 20 minutes on stage with no clothes on.

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