Actor playwright Ronnie Leek talks a whole load of Trollope
Ronnie Leek has tried to write serious material, but admits it always ends up being '˜funny.' The 61-year-old who lives in Brinscall makes no apologies as he presents his latest comedy offering, Trollope.
The play follows Percy Trollope, who contracts Infantus Adultus Maximus, which means he was born a fully grown man, culminating in the death of his mother. His grief-stricken father decides to take him to Mrs Scrunt’s Home for Unwanted and Difficult Waifs, where he discovers a library full of books.
Coupled with his hyperthymesia (the ability to remember everything that has ever happened), he memorises every fact from the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
He then runs away and shacks up with writer HG Wells who introduces him to his time travelling wheelchair.
Percy then learns to travel through time, where he meets lots of famous historical figures from William Wordsworth and Sid Vicious to Hitler.
The play had its debut in the summer at the Manchester fringe, where it had great reviews and was a sell out. As a result, it won the Best Comedy Play at the Manchester Fringe Awards, as well as the Fringe production of the year at the Northern Soul Awards. The team was also nominated for the Oldham Coliseum Pick of the Fringe.
He says: “Three actors play 23 characters. One of our usual actors has had to pull out so I am stepping in and taking in nine characters.
“I have had a busy few weeks but it is all good fun. It is a great play.”
Ronnie adds he had the idea for the play around 20 years ago, but after working with playwright and screenwriter Jim Cartwright, it gave him the impetus to turn his dream into a reality.
He adds: “Around two-and-a-half years ago I met up with Jim Cartwright, who doesn’t live too far away.
“He had set up some acting classes and so I joined.
“I was more interested in the fact he was Jim Cartwright, rather than the acting, as I thought it would be a great opportunity for me.
“I met a lot of creative people and I got talking to one of the women there, who said my idea for Trollope was really good, so I ran with it.
“Her name was Pegeen Murphy and she eventually became my co-producer for Trollope.
“It is weird how you don’t know where life will take you.
“One minute you are going in one direction and then it leads you to something else.”
Among Ronnie’s other works includes three one-person shows, a situation comedy, a television drama, numerous short stories as well as performance poetry.
He adds: “I write every day. Some of it is rubbish, but then I move onto better things.
“A few years ago, I went to open mic poetry nights in Manchester with my son Charlie. I managed to get through to the finals of the Word War 2 poetry slam event. It is great validation of what I am doing and hopefully it resonates with people.
“I tend to write witty stuff. I try to be serious but it ends up being funny.
“I am now working with Jim Cartwright and we did a show called Cartwright Cabaret, where a group of us performed monologues from his plays.
“We also devised a play called The Wedding, which Jim directed and we are currently working on a short film.”
Keen to promote other creative minds, Ronnie set up Writers Reign Theatre.
He adds: “The theatre is not only as a way of promoting my own work but also to promote a select few of my friends’ work.
“My aim is to provide a platform for quality writing that might not otherwise see the light of day, and by working closely with other actors, writers and directors we will bring this to fruition.”
Writing is just one of Ronnie’s strengths, as he first cut his teeth as an actor, appearing in shows such as Emmerdale, Brookside, Coronation Street, Heartbeat and The Bill.
He adds: “Originally from Liverpool, I trained at the Liverpool Theatre School in the late 1970s.
“I have performed in plays in many theatres up and down the country, spent a full year with the Octagon theatre in Bolton, toured with TIE companies to schools all over Britain. I also toured schools with a play that I had written called Tom And The Magic Ring.
“I had an agent who got me TV work and one thing led to another.
“My first TV job was just one line in Fallen Hero. My line was ‘just make sure he doesn’t drive.’ It is actually more difficult having one line than plenty others as you overthink it and go over it again and again.
“I have done a few odd bits. I did In Suspicious Circumstances and was a policeman in four or five episodes of Emmerdale during the big plane crash in 1994.
“Brookside was one of my earlier jobs.
“Ricky Tomlinson was my agent and he got me a bit part. I had just one scene as an estate agent and then I was cast as Father Paul Heaton and I was there nearly a year, on and off. I also did a few things in Coronation Street. I was a policeman and kept arresting Steve McDonald. I was also a doctor, informing Liz McDonald that baby Katie had died. The storyline recently came back, with a con woman pretending to be Liz’s daughter, so that made me laugh.
“I did enjoy TV work. There is no such thing as a small part as you have to make the most out of everything as it can lead to something else.
“But writing is where I thrive more.”
The father-of-four left the TV work behind to concentrate on being a voice over artist, which he has been doing with his wife Jayne Dowell for the past 16 years.
He adds: “For the past 16 years I have worked primarily as a voice over, locked away in our home studio with my wife, four kids and two dogs.
“I have voiced campaigns for projects as diverse as the Priory rehabilitation centres, to the voice of a dog explaining how to fit garden decking.
“Two of our commercials recently featured in Peter Kay’s Car Share. They were both called the Shed Doctor.
“One was in episode one of series one and the other was in the second series.”
Ronnie adds he also took on a role much closer to home, as King Arthur at Camelot, in Charnock Richard -something he thoroughly enjoyed.
He recalls: “We lived onsite and had moved from Cheshire.
“I was there from 1991 to 2002 and worked with Steve Royle. I was also doing TV work alongside it and my bosses were very supportive, allowing me to do both.”
Ronnie adds the Leek household is a very creative one, with his son Charlie running a production company and his wife is also an actor and voice over artist.
He says: “Jayne is a great help and is very supportive. She has been in Truckers and presented a few documentaries.
“She was in What the Papers Say, and was one of the actors who impersonated people to demonstrate what the journalists say.
“She also does voice over work for radio stations in the south of France. With our recording booth, we don’t even have to leave the house to do that sort of work anymore, which is pretty cool.”
Trollope was due to be shown at The New Continental, Preston, on November 29.
However, it has been postponed until next year.