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The Bath Chronicle
Wednesday, May 13, 2009

 

 

Oliver Gardner, Billy Elliot 2009

A 12-year-old schoolboy from Bath earned standing ovations during his West End debut in the lead role in the musical Billy Elliot. Ollie Gardner, who is from Saltford and a Year 8 pupil at Kingswood School, finally took to the stage last night after more than year of training and rehearsals. His family, friends and teachers were all in the audience to see him finally dance the part that he had been dreaming about for years.

After the show Ollie, who started dancing when he was five, admitted that he had been nervous beforehand but that he had been excited to finally perform. He said: “When I came off the stage I felt relieved. I was glad that finally all the training had paid off and that I had finally done it. I’m just really happy. I have always wanted to be Billy. Before I went on I was a bit nervous, but more excited.”

Ollie said that his favourite part of the show had been the Dream Ballet sequence, which he performed with an older professional dancer who is supposed to represent Billy when he is older.

He said he had been concentrating on all his dance steps while also making sure that he was in character while he performed. He added: “While I am up there I have to think about the dancing while I am performing and also what it means.”

 

Oliver Gardner, Billy Elliot 2009-2

 

Ollie’s mother Sabra was in the audience with her husband Simon, daughter Stanya and both sets of Ollie’s grandparents. She said: “I think I was very nervous beforehand, but I have to say once I saw him come on and I realised that he was happy and he was confident and he wasn’t nervous, then I just enjoyed it. He looked so happy up there. I was just delighted that this was his dream and he was enjoying it. He looked like he was having an absolute ball.”

Oliver Gardner, Billy Elliot 2009-3

Ollie’s family and friends had not seen him dance for more than six months because he had been training for the part. Mrs Gardner said that she had been amazed by how much his dancing had improved. She said: “I can’t really describe it. It is just such a leap of ability, in terms of technique, particularly in the ballet. That is what the Dream Ballet showed off. Just his body shape, it was beautiful. It was ballet dancer but smaller, he didn’t look like a boy doing ballet.”

“I still can’t quite believe it. He looked like Billy, he was so believable as Billy. When they were doing the standing ovations I was thinking gosh, they are doing that for my son. It was thrilling.”

Ollie is sharing the part of Billy with three other boys and just had the morning off today before going back to his training.

Mrs Gardner said his success was largely down to the hard work he had put in.

She said: “To do this obviously Ollie has to be talented and he has got to have a natural ability, but that is not enough. The directors have been utterly amazed by his work ethic and his approach to all the work. That is a huge part of how he has got there. He has had to give up other things. He knows that if he wants to do that as a career then he has to put the effort in. That is what he has recognised from very early on.”

Ollie’s form tutor at Kingswood Roderick Duke was at his opening night with the school’s director of development Angela Dudley-Warde. Mr Duke said: “It was hard to reconcile the fact that he was a very normal 12-year-old boy back in September and was now stunning these audiences with his dancing.

“The amount of work he has put in, the potential he must have shown. It was a remarkable evening, I was very proud. He was really enjoying himself and just seemed to have such a beaming smile.”

Mrs Dudley-Warde added: “We were just stunned and amazed. It was so hard to believe that this was a little 12-year-old boy from Kingswood captivating this audience.”

 

Related article: Ollie steps into West End role as Billy Elliot

 

Oliver Gardner, Billy Elliot 2009-4

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