Ex-RAF intelligence analyst from Buxton set for stage debut and Peaky Blinders after rollercoaster year
A former RAF intelligence analyst from Buxton is gearing up for his debut leading role in a stage musical this summer in a production delayed for more than a year by Covid.
Tony Owens, 34, served in campaigns over Afghanistan and Libya but in 2016 started making plans to give it all up and pursue the dream he had harboured since performing in the Kinder Choir as a child.
It took him three more years to achieve the necessary qualifications before he finally left the force to start auditioning for roles, and it seemed like his lucky break had arrived with a part in gothic prog-rock musical Birdsong in Bedlam.
He said: “I was talking myself out of this audition in the days before, thinking I wasn’t ready, but my fiancée Lauren said she would drag me there by the ears if she had to.
“Thankfully it didn’t come to that. I got offered a small role in the ensemble at first and then, when the lead actor dropped out for a film role, the producer and director chose me to take his place.”
The show was originally set for a premiere in Manchester last year followed by a short tour, but the cast were left waiting in the wings when the pandemic struck and the premiere was repeatedly postponed.
Tony said: “It really put a spanner in the works. I had to take some part-time jobs to pay the bills and cut back on everything – a very actorly way to live. It was very surreal after that initial thrill of getting a lead role in a new show.
“Lauren’s been really supportive. We met just as I was coming out of the force and she tells me she was drawn to the fact that I was committed to doing something I enjoy and felt passionate about.”
While Tony spent some time working on the census for the Office for National Statistics, not all of the work was so far removed from the spotlight.
He has also picked up voiceover work advertising local businesses, filmed a small background part for the final series of Peaky Blinders, and recently acquired an agent with Hollywood connections.
But now his focus is firmly back on Birdsong, which takes his character Eddie on a journey inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy – a 14th century Italian poem moving through hell, purgatory, and heaven.
Tony said: “The basic premise is about how his life spirals after the loss of his wife, and then his self-discovery to confront his demons.”
Covid permitting, the show will have a one-week run at the Albert Halls in Bolton, August 8-14, and there is still hope it may tour afterwards.
Tony said: “About a month ago we did a photoshoot with the cast in costume. After so long of only reading these characters and hearing rehearsals on Zoom, it really helped to get the adrenaline going.
“I’m really excited about the show again now. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. I just hope we don’t hit another dip.”