IT'S been the launchpad for countless superstars and is a hot topic of conversation in homes, pubs and offices up and down the country four nights a week.
IT'S been the launchpad for countless superstars and is a hot topic of conversation in homes, pubs and offices up and down the country four nights a week.And now, one talented city actor's name will be on the lips of millions of soap fans after clinching a once-in-a-lifetime part on EastEnders.
Michelle Ryan was a wide-eyed unknown when she bagged the role of Zoe Slater on the show, but not long after she left, she was cast as the lead in a multi-million-pound US series.
Himesh Patel (17), from Sawtry, near Peterborough, hopes big things are also in store for him, but, at the moment, he is just revelling in rubbing shoulders with the likes of film legends Barbara Windsor and Phil Daniels on the Square.
Himesh, who honed his drama skills at The Cresset, in Bretton, Peterborough, as part of the Young Actors Company, filmed his first scenes as Tamwar Masood, the son of feisty post office owner Zainab (Nina Wadia) and brother to Shabnam (Zahra Ahmadi) in July, and made his debut about a week ago, as Libby Fox's brainy friend.
Nitin Ganatra, star of films such as Bride And Prejudice and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, plays his father.
It's rumoured that Himesh will be plunged into a controversial storyline from the off, portraying British soap's first gay Muslim character, who will be seen to struggle with his sexuality.
"I was thrilled when I learned that I had got the part," he said. "The whole EastEnders 'family' has been very helpful, and I was made to feel at home from the moment I arrived.
"I was a big fan of Nina and Nitin already, and suddenly to find myself working with such experienced and respected actors was like a dream come true."
Director of the Cambridge-based Young Actors Company Steve Biggs said he was delighted to confirm that one of its members had been picked to join the cast.
He said: "Himesh has been a committed member of Young Actors for more than two years.
"He has worked hard on his craft, and fully deserves this opportunity.
"Apart from being an excellent actor, Himesh is a very likeable and down-to-earth young man, who I'm sure will prove to be an absolute hit, both on and off screen."
Nina Wadia, who appeared in Goodness Gracious Me, told an internet magazine: "I'm looking forward to working with my on-screen son, Himesh Patel.
"It's so nice to come to work and have some adult conversation, as at home I spend most of my day chatting to a three-year-old or my three-and-a-half-month-old baby."
The Peterborough branch holds its next round of auditions on December 1 at The Cresset. It meets every Saturday to teach stage and screen skills to youngsters aged between nine and 18.
Call Mr Biggs on 01223 416474, or 0783 6736352 for details.