Two former Portadown College pupils who left the school almost 20 years apart have ended up treading the boards in the same West End show.
Glenn Speers (48) and Ryan Gibb (28) are both starring in The Commitments, based on Irish author Roddy Doyle’s best-selling novel and subsequent film.
The pair met when the show began in September 2013 in what Ryan describes as a “one in a million chance”, immediately picking each other out by their accents.
Their stories of how they got there are very different, however, with Ryan, who is from Richhill, taking a more traditional route. Having been a member of the Junior Phoenix Players he went on to do a degree course at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, moving to London six years ago.
Glenn, on the other hand, only began acting when he was 40, having spent nine years in the Navy as an aircraft engineer, followed by stints as everything from a kitchen salesman and delivery driver to a roadie for bands.
It was when he was living in Dublin, and working as a bouncer, that his now-wife Jacqui handed him a flyer about an acting class.
He said, “The only play I had ever been in was a pantomime when I was in the Navy, and I was in a band for a while as well, but I came out that night and I knew then that’s what I wanted to do.”
Glenn and Jacqui eventually made the decision to move to London, where there would be more acting opportunities.
It was a leap of faith but one that paid off as, eight years on, Glenn has starred in everything from commercials and TV series to films.
He said, “When I got an audition for the Commitments I just laughed. I’m not a trained singer, I can’t even read music so I really wasn’t expecting to get cast.”
Both Ryan and Glenn have played a variety of roles in the show - with Glenn taking a year’s break to pursue other acting opportunities - and they are now heading into the final weeks, with the musical set to finish its West End run on November 1.
Before that, an extract from The Commitments will be featured on RTE’s The Late Late Show within weeks.