YOUNG actor Jonathan Gilworth was centre stage in a major professional theatre production in Leeds last night.
And while the 12-year-old, known as Jono, may have his sister Jodika, 17, to thank for getting the chance to pitch for the role which will see him on stage at West Yorkshire Playhouse for almost a month, the talent that got him the part is very much his own.
Jono is appearing in a revival of Tom Stoppard’s spy thriller Hapgood. He is one of two young actors cast as the sons of actress and comedienne Josie Lawrence, who plays the spymaster Hapgood of the show’s title.
The Gilworth family – that’s Jono, Jodika plus mum Gill and dad Bob – live in Edgerton. All are delighted at Jono’s success and have backed him every inch of the way.
“Jodika was auditioning to join the National Youth Theatre and we went to the Playhouse at lunchtime to pick her up,” said Gill.
“We saw a sign saying the theatre was auditioning that day to find boys to play in Hapgood. I asked about it, thinking that it would be too late and they just said to bring Jono back at about 4pm.
“He hadn’t prepared anything. He didn’t have time to get nervous. It will be really hard work for Jono, but it’s a great opportunity for him.”
And he agrees. I caught up with him during his school lunch break at Crossley Heath School in Halifax and he said: “I’m really excited because I’ve seen shows at the Playhouse before and I know how good it is there. Obviously I’m a bit nervous because I know how good they area.”
But overawed he is not. Jono has had bags of stage experience working with the tutors at the Lawrence Batley Theatre.
“I’ve been at the LBT Youth Theatre since I was five. I did loads of stuff for that and enjoyed it. That was because of my sister too. She started there and I wanted to go.”
When Paul Danby, one of the youth theatre tutors, moved on and began doing shows with his own company, Benchmark Productions, Jono got involved in that too.
Jono said: “Paul started Benchmark Performing Arts Academy, which is more about children who want to be actors rather than children who want to act for fun.”
“I did Animal Farm with them last summer and it was staged on a real farm. This year we are doing Wind In The Willows and we hope it will be staged at either West Yorkshire Sculpture Park or in Greenhead Park in Huddersfield.”
As to the future, Jono has no doubts about his ambitions. “I will still want to be an actor when I’m older.”
He is working hard at his musical skills and has always enjoyed dance. Both will help his ambitions to be an actor.
“We went to see Singing In The Rain at the Playhouse when he was about seven,” said mum, Gill.
“After that he went and did tap and ballroom. He’s given those up now but he still dances around the house all the time.”
“Jono has also had music lessons. He has had piano and electric guitar lessons and he’s just switched to the drums.”
This talented family could soon see another performer in the spotlight. Jono has followed in the footsteps of Jodika at the LBT youth theatre and Benchmark.
“They were both in a production of Roald Dahl’s The Witches at the LBT and both are working with Benchmark. Last year, in Animal Farm, Jono was Benjamin the donkey. He was one of the youngest in it and I didn’t think that it would hold his attention, but he loved it,” said Gill.
Now the whole family is looking forward to seeing Jono, who was 12 on the first day of rehearsals for Hapgood, on stage in a major at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
He will be working alongside a professional cast and another young actor, 10-year-old George Snaith, from Selby.
The production runs until May 24 and the boys will have to contend with matinees as well as evening performances.
They will share the 27 performances and can expect hard work and a disciplined atmosphere.
Jono appears to love it. All the family needs now is for some good news for Jodika and that National Youth Theatre place. Fingers crossed.
Tickets from the WY Playhouse box office on 0113 213 7700.