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Chance meetings

Pauline McLean | 18:36 UK time, Thursday, 4 November 2010

Earlier this year, I was standing at the bar after a show at the Citizens Theatre (I think it was Backbeat).

So was Minnie Driver and countless other stars of stage and screen. But rather than standing there ogling, I got talking to an actress turned director called Cora Bissett, who was working on a hard-edged show about sex trafficking.

She'd been inspired by an African girl who stayed in her house, who told her own shocking story of how she was trafficked to Scotland.

Cora wanted to bring it home to Scottish audiences - quite literally - by staging the play in an ordinary house that the audience is taken to by bus. Even those familiar with the area would be confused and once inside, no one would know what was going on. Chillingly like the real experience of her flatmate.

Months later, and Cora's finished play Roadkill, is the hottest theatre ticket since Black Watch. It sold out during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe - and had to add extra dates to meet demand.

The latest run in Glasgow - with the same stunning cast of Mercy Ojelade, Adura Onashile, and John Kazek - is also completely sold out and they're considering offers from Australia, America and other parts of the UK.

It's been an enormous boost for Ankur Productions - who began life as a niche company for ethnic minority arts projects and now find themselves in charge of a production which commands mainstream attention, not to mention a page in the New York Times.

The Scottish Refugee Council, who advised on the authenticity of the play, have provided material and guests for post show discussion. Roadkill, they say, has provided immeasurable help in raising the profile of this unspoken crime.

On a lighter note, a similarly chance meeting between professional musician Andy Rumbles and singing doctor Walter Nimmo, is the reason Dumfermline's Alhambra Theatre is tonight playing host to the world premiere of a brand new musical.

Ole Blue Eyes and Friends - Live on TV (they surely need a snappier title!) is as the name suggests an imagined TV show with the dream team of Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Doris Day and Judy Garland - not to mention a live big band.

Andy had long envisaged staging the show, but as yet, had no backer.

Walter - who used to head a pharmaceutical company for a living - won himself the chance to appear with the cast of the Rat Pack as part of the 2005 BBC Children in Need extravaganza (thanks to his generous donation of £20,000). The pianist was Andy Rumbles.

"I had no idea who he was," says Rumbles.

"Usually your heart sinks when someone wants to sing with the band but he was really rather good and we just kept in touch."

Fast forward five years and Rumbles has not only convinced Walter his idea has the makings of a good musical but Walter's given up the day job and set up his own company - OBE Productions (Ole Blue Eyes, what else!)

Rehearsals this week were looking good. A medley of classic numbers, a sassy and glamorous west end cast, including Stephen Triffitt, who sang with Walter in that original Children in Need show. Does the show have the potential to make it as far as the West End?The cast think so.

Adrienne Stiegel who plays Judy Garland - an impressive transformation for a blue eyed blonde - says: "It's easily a West End show. What's not to love. It's got amazing songs, artists that people still love after all these years, it's bright, it's upbeat. They're going to love it here in Dumfermline and beyond."

Let's hope so. The Alhambra - in all its revived vintage glory - has an awesome 1,200 seats to fill (although they're likely to settle for 800) and four performances to sell.
No news of a west end run just yet, but the team are hopeful of pinning down a UK tour of the show in the new year.

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