Sam treads the boards in the West End

A Ceredigion actor is taking the West End by storm covering not one, not two, not three, but four parts in the hit show, The Choir of Man!

Sam Ebenezer from Talybont is smashing being a swing in the musical. For those who don’t know, a swing is the same as an understudy, but instead of learning one part, talented Sam has four roles under his belt and is ready to go on stage as any one of them at any time.

Sam as DS Trotter in the 70th year of The Mousetrap at St Martin’s Theatre in London

He covers the roles of the Poet, the Maestro, the Romantic and the Joker when actors go on holiday, or suffer illness of injury. Sam’s appearances can be scheduled in advance, as in the case of a holiday, at the last minute if someone is ill or injured, and even in the middle of a show, which has happened!

But Sam, well-known in Aberystwyth for many performances over the years in the Wardens’ pantomime, arts centre summer season shows and many dance school, youth theatre and Theatrestars performances, is ready for anything and taking it all in his stride!

I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Sam recently in his favourite role as the Poet, and having appeared alongside him in a number of shows I could hardly contain my pride!

And when he mentioned in the show that he is from Aberystwyth and gave a nod to the Llew Gwyn pub in Talybont I couldn’t contain myself and I whooped and cheered, embarrassing my daughter in the process. Result!

The Choir of Man is set in a pub and the characters weave parts of their own lives into the story – hence Sam’s references to home. The show features a working bar on stage and pints of beer are poured for the audience during the performance. Nice touch!

The cast of nine annoyingly talented actor/musicians sing some incredible arrangements of well-known songs and the dialogue is delivered through a series of monologues. There’s also a lot of dancing! (Told you the cast was talented). And right at the heart of it is Sam as the Poet who narrates the show.

Commenting on his latest roles, Sam said: “Performing in The Choir of Man has been one of the best experiences in my career so far. The show is so much fun and I count my lucky stars to be working in the West End every day.

“On a personal level, this show has taught me so much, especially the demands of being a swing.

“For those who don’t know, a swing is someone who covers holidays and illnesses in the cast, like a cover or an understudy. But this show is its own beast!

“Within the 90-minute show, every character has their own solo, sings different harmony lines for each number, plays various different musical instruments, on top of remembering the choreography and script when I cover the narrator role in the show. It’s by far the most challenging job I’ve ever done but equally the most rewarding.

“I am a big believer that the opportunities I have had in Aberystwyth were a huge advantage to me. The work ethic I was taught from a young age has helped me on all of the jobs I have been fortunate enough to do in my career.

“Although I have been in London for 10 years now (which is terrifying to say out loud), I still look back fondly at my time in Aber, especially at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, being a part of four summer seasons including playing Oliver back in 2005, and in dance school shows, Theatrestars and Youth Theatre.

“I was fortunate enough to move to London in 2013 after being accepted on the Musical Theatre course at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, which helped further my knowledge and experiences. Since then, I have done pantomimes all over the UK, workshopped new musicals and I’m now on my second West End contract, previously playing Detective Sergeant Trotter in the 70th year of The Mousetrap at St Martin’s Theatre.

“My advice for anyone who wants to go into musical theatre would be to make sure you really want to be in this industry before taking the leap.

“It’s a really tough profession and there are sometimes more negative days than positives. For example, there are countless rejections in comparison to actual job offers, you can end up spending hours and hours working a job outside of the industry just to make ends meet and don’t get me started on the jobs that got cancelled due to the pandemic.

“However, if you have the passion and drive to succeed, it’ll be worth every minute.

“I would happily go through the tough days 10 times over if it meant that I would be doing what I am doing right now!”

The Choir of Man continues its sell-out West End run at the Arts Theatre, with new tickets released for dates until 18 February 2024.

Nell heads to Netflix with hotly anticipated adaptation of popular novel

A child from Llwyngwril is taking the small screen by storm in a Netflix adaptation of All The Light We Cannot See.

Little Nell Sutton stars in the four-part series of the Pulitzer prize-winning novel by American author Anthony Doerr.

Nell Sutton in the Guide Dogs advert that saw her land a role in the Netflix production of All The Light We Cannot See

She plays the part of young Marie-Laure alongside film stars Mark Ruffalo, who plays Daniel LeBlanc, and Hugh Laurie, who takes on the role of Etienne LeBlanc.

The story is about a blind French teenager, Marie-Laure, whose path crosses that of a young World War Two German soldier in occupied France.

As we reported in the Cambrian News in March 2022, Nell, who is blind, won her first major acting role alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, following an appearance in an advert for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Eight-year-old Nell lives in Llwyngwril with mother Rachel, father Paul, older brother Isaac and little sister Martha, who also played a role in the Guide Dogs advert, playing the part of Nell’s friend.

Speaking last year, mum Rachel, who got in touch with casting agents after spotting an online appeal for a vision-impaired child to play the young Marie, said: “Nell did the Guide Dogs television advert and found it such a positive experience that she wanted to go on acting.

“She took part in several rounds of online auditions [for All The Light We Cannot See] during lockdown, learning snippets from the script while I had to be the other character in the scene.

“When she finally auditioned in front of the director, I forgot my cue because I was so nervous.

“We didn’t tell her it was an audition, just that some people had seen the television advert and wanted to see her do a bit of acting.

“Straight after the final audition they gave her 15 minutes to learn a different script but she managed.

“She did a completely fresh audition and had to show different emotions, doing the scene as if angry or upset.”

The family went for a walk on the beach shortly afterwards where they told Nell she had the role.

“She was excited and bubbly – typical Nell – then she began working out what it meant,” Rachel said.

“She couldn’t wait to run off and tell her grandparents, and she’s very excited about going on a plane and meeting the director, Shawn Levy.

“She has already spoken a bit of Welsh to him, sung him a Welsh song and offered to teach him a little bit of the language when they meet up.”

Prior to filming, Nell got to know Aria Mia Loberti, the actress playing the older version of Marie-Laure.

Rachel said: “Aria is also vision impaired and new to acting.

“When the director saw Nell’s audition he knew he wanted to try and cast two vision-impaired females for authenticity.

“It sends a powerful message when we see people in the media from different backgrounds and races.

“This is a fabulous opportunity to highlight and celebrate people with a vision impairment.

“Winning this role sends a positive message to young people with sight loss that you can do what you want to do.

“Nell has been very lucky in a way, but she has worked for it.

“This proves that being visually impaired does not have to get in her way and does not define her.”

Acting is not the only reason that young Nell has appeared in the Cambrian News. As well as featuring the story of the youngster’s casting in All The Light We Cannot See last March, we also featured Nell and her family in April 2021.

Back then the Sutton family had been finding out what characters from The Gruffalo smell like, thanks to Guide Dogs Cymru.

Paul, Rachel, Isaac, Nell and Martha were the first family to try out the Welsh-language version of this popular children’s book, complete with a scent kit produced by the charity.

Each of the main characters in the book has a unique smell, which can be released to make reading an inclusive experience for the whole family.

Guide Dogs Cymru hoped the fun project would highlight how important it is for children with a vision impairment to enjoy learning with their families.

Nell was born blind. Dad Paul lost his sight in his teens due to glaucoma. The family received support from Branwen Jones from Guide Dogs Cymru when Nell was 18 months old. It was the first specialist support the family had received, and gave Nell the confidence and skills to get around using a cane “just like Daddy’s”.

Isaac, 13, read the book aloud to the family as Nell and younger sister Martha uncorked the scent kit. All three children thought the mouse smelt of lemon and strawberries, while the fox smelt of lettuce.

They described the owl’s scent as “ice cream and mummy’s jumpers” and the snake’s as “salami”.

Rachel said then that “it’s hard to describe the worry and uncertainty that you feel when your child is born with such a severe vision impairment. Navigating the school system, local services and trying to access support groups can be really confusing and you just don’t know what to do for the best.

“It was a huge relief when we were introduced to Branwen from Guide Dogs.

“She was so positive about what Nell could do and gave us all a huge boost.

“Even though Nell was young to be using a cane, Branwen really encouraged her and she’s now well on the way to being able to use it all the time. The support we received from such a young age was invaluable.”

Little Nell isn’t letting anything hold her back, as her performance in All The Light We Cannot See proves.