Wayne Miller, best known to audiences in the North East for his work in pantomime, is about to see his comedy The Big Time performed in London.
The actor, writer, director and producer has been a familiar face in the region’s theatre scene for many years, and his face is well-known in his native South Tyneside due to his regular appearances in shows in the borough, including an eleven-year run as Customs House favourite ‘Santa’s Naughty Elf’.
Now, after years of getting laughs in the North East, Wayne hopes to repeat his success in London.
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Clockwise from top left: Abigail Lawson, Steven Stobbs, Sean Kenney and Wayne Miller
His comedy The Big Time was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018, selling out shows and gaining great reviews.
The production, written by Wayne, sees him play Jacks, who, together with Jerry (played by Sean Kenney), wants to be ‘Big Time’.
The pair agree to take on a job that will get them up the ladder in the ‘Organisation’, but the show sees the bungling crooks embark on a kidnapping which goes wrong, spiraling into a night of pure comic disaster.
The show, produced by Walton-Gunn Productions, will play at The Exchange in North Shields on October 2, before heading down the A1 to appear at the Bread & Roses Theatre in Clapham London, on October 17 and 18.
Wayne in The Big Time at the Edinburgh Fringe
“We have played the Big Time to a wide range of audience members in Edinburgh, from Australia to Denmark and everywhere in-between,” said Wayne.
"We know that a ‘Northern Comedy’ like this can translate very well. I’m looking forward to getting in front of a new audience down in the capital, but we have to make our locals laugh in North Shields first. “
“Having the chance to get your work produced in regional theatres right now is special. We understand how important places like The Exchange are, and how much the need audiences after such a tough time. We hope we can be a show that bring people back to theatre and be part of keeping theatre alive.”
Producer Stacy Miller said she and Wayne were thrilled to be taking their work to the capital.
A poster for The Big Time
“It’s important to us that we reach new audiences with our work. London has been a dream for us to play for a long time now, we are hoping to make links to keeping taking new work down there. The Bread & Roses Theatre has a great reputation for great fringe theatre and new writing,” she said.
“Before heading down south, we are looking forward to entertaining a home crown. After the past year of struggle for us and theatres , we can’t wait to be part of theatre coming back for good. We have put together a cast that we know will bring some Big Time laughs this October”
As well as Wayne and Sean, the show also stars fellow familiar faces of the North East stage Abigail Lawson and Steven Stobbs.
Could you start by telling us what is The Big Time?
It’s a comedy that follows Jerry and Jacks, who do odd jobs working for a local gangster to pay off a debt.
However, they become out of their depth rather quick, when they decide to pull off a kidnapping. All so they can “Move up” in the organisation.
It’s not as simple as they are, put it that way, so their night rapidly and hilariously spins out of control.
This was your first full length play after many years as a performer. What made you make the change from actor to writer?
The simple answer is work. When arts funding becomes hard to come by, so does the work…especially in the North East.
It was during one of those dry spells as an actor I thought why not try my hand at writing something and creating some work. I began by writing short children’s plays and musicals because as an actor I knew that genre well.
Then I began to co-write sketches and short plays with other writers.
Those seemed to go well, well enough for me to decide to try something full length.
That was The Big Time, so how did the idea for the piece come about?
The idea came to me while I was having a movie binge. I was watching a lot of John Favreau, Steven Soderbergh and Tarantino, those crime films with a humorous slant.
I wanted to create something like that for the stage when the idea for this comedy about disorganised crime came to me. I’m a huge fan of Favreau and Tarantino as writers, their character dialogue, the rhythms and great use of a pause and silence.
Those are film influences on your writing style, do you have any influences from the theatre world?
Of course, one of my favourite playwrights is Martin McDonagh, a fabulous writing of real dialogue. Someone who has made a great transition to film too. I can’t forget however, a classic influence and that is Harold Pinter, The Dumb Waiter is an absolute masterpiece in my eyes!
So, where did the play get its first run on stage?
That was at my home town theatre, The Customs House in South Shields, somewhere that I felt safe for my first time out as a playwright. It was back when a lot of new writers were given a place to showcase.
You had the likes of Wood & Waugh, the writers of Dirty Dusting & Alf Ramsey Knew My Grandfather, who were trying out new work there.
Before that, companies like Boyle Yer Stott’s had been making waves with their comedies. So, The Customs House felt right for The Big Time to premier there.
That was back in 2013, so how did The Big Time make a return in 2018…five years later?
I’d always planned for The Big Time to be an Edinburgh Fringe piece. Having performed their many times before, I knew it would be perfect for it. Sadly though, other things got in the way and it never made it to Edinburgh after The Customs House run. That was something that bugged me, I felt like it should have had its Fringe shot.
Then in 2017 myself and my partner formed a new company, and after telling her about my Big Time fringe regret, she suggested we make it our first production on the list for 2018.
So, five years later it played Edinburgh, where it went down so so well.
Making this one, the comedies third theatrical run. Will this be the last for you? Or do you have anymore plans for it’s future?
I think my “hands on” time with The Big Time is over and done. I’d like to see what someone else would do with it. Bring something fresh, a totally different take on it. I think that’s a great thing as writer, getting to see you work produced as many different ways possible. So, defiantly time to let go of it for now…maybe revisit to produce a run of it alongside its sequel, The Big Goodbye? Who knows?
There’s a sequel?
Indeed, it follows on from the events of The Big Time. I can’t say too much about it, but its a great follow up comedy. I enjoyed writing it and loved its first run, I think it would be a nice theatre double bill someday. Theatre hasn’t had one of those in a long time, maybe it could happen someday.