THE BIG READ: All the world’s a stage for Gedney Hill actress Lianne

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  • How an ex-Spalding High School student is now up for the leading roles
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Anthony Hopkins, Joan Collins, Tom Hiddleston, Diana Rigg, Kenneth Branagh, Glenda Jackson, John Thaw and Lianne Harvey.

The last name on the list above may seem out of place, compared to the others.

But ex-Spalding High School student Lianne Harvey (24), of Gedney Hill, is a fully fledged member of the actor’s union after starring in The (Fletton) Railway Children, produced by Suffolk-based regional theatre group Eastern Angles.

Lianne, who like Hopkins and the others is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, said: “I’d been interested in working with Eastern Angles for a while as I was keen to work in my home and have all my family come to see the show.

“I’d written to ask about auditions for The Fletton Railway Children and ended up auditioning the day after I got back from Scotland with The Handlebards touring theatre group.

“The timing was amazing and it goes to show that although acting is as hard a profession as people say, nothing worth having ever comes easy.”

CURTAIN CALL. Lianne Harvey (right) with Lily Howkins in a scene from The (Fletton) Railway Children at The Undercroft, Serpentine Green, Peterborough.  Photo by Mike Kwasniak.

CURTAIN CALL. Lianne Harvey (right) with Lily Howkins in a scene from The (Fletton) Railway Children at The Undercroft, Serpentine Green, Peterborough. Photo by Mike Kwasniak.

Life looked rather different for Lianne at Spalding Grammar School, until she came under the influence of English and drama teacher, Amanda Rossi.

Lianne said: “Spalding High School was where my love for acting began, but I think they were hesitant in me going for acting as a career.

“But I knew it was what I really wanted to do because my mum had always taken me to drama groups and always believed in me.

“As a child, Mum had wanted to work in theatre as a costume designer but she told me that she didn’t get to follow her dream when she was younger.

Studying at RADA was brilliant and I found that my peers were often so talented that it was them that really pushed me to continuously raise my game over the three years I was there

Lianne Harvey of Gedney Hill, Spalding High School, RADA and The HandleBards

“So because of that, Mum said she would do anything in her power to make sure that I could follow

After school, Lianne moved to Peterborough Regional College where she studied performing arts under teachers Jason Mitchell and Lee Griffin.

“Going to the college was the best thing I could have done at that point,” Lianne said.

“The tutors were passionate, caring and genuinely brilliant at what they did andI have a lot to thank Lee, Jason and the many friends I met there for, some of whom are still in the acting industry now.”

At the age of 19, Lianne won the chance of a lifetime when she was one of just 28 people to be offered a place at RADA, the leading acting school in the UK.

However, Lianne faced the challenge of raising £11,000 to cover her living costs after taking time out to build up her acting experience ready for RADA’s rigorous four-stage audition process.

After being accepted by RADA, Lianne said: “At the start, I didn’t think I had any chance.

“But the closer I got, the more I wanted it and I was just absolutely thrilled when I got the place.

“I’ve wanted it for so long and worked so hard for it that when I got the phone call saying I’d got in, I think my vocabulary became limited to about five words which was ‘oh my god’ and ‘thank you’.

“I feel so honoured and really privileged to get into RADA, but now I’m wishing for people to sponsor me as I’m unable to move onto the next stage of my career without some generosity and kindness from others.

“However, they have the promise that I will work my utmost to achieve worthwhile results.”

Lianne did make it into RADA after raising the necessary funds by doing a 26-kilometre bike ride from Gedney Hill to Stanground, Peterborough, along with gaining a RADA scholarship.

“Studying at RADA was brilliant and the teachers were phenomenal,” Lianne said.

“But I found that my peers were often so talented that it was them that really pushed me to continuously raise my game over the three years I was there.

“I wish I could go back and do it all over again.”

Lianne graduated from RADA in 2014, the same year in which she won the Sir Alec Guinness Memorial Award, awarded by the Catholic Association of Performing Arts to “one talented young actor each year with support in the 12 months after leaving drama school”.

More than 100 students from drama schools across the UK had the chance to vote and since winning the award, Lianne has gone on to join Shakespearean cycling and theatre touring group, The HandleBards.

Lianne said: “I got into the HandleBards troupe after a rigorous three rounds of auditions.

“My least favourite part was the long run we had to go on and also ‘doing the plank’ (an abdominal exercise for cyclists). “Surprisingly, I was quite unfit at the auditions but cycling the country changed all that.”

Alongside Lianne in The HandleBards is fellow South Holland actor, ex-Spalding Grammar School and Sheffield University student Paul Hilliar of Spalding.

“I will never forget finding out that Lianne was from the South Holland area,” Paul said.

“Whenever I travel the UK and say I am from Spalding, it is rare for anyone to say they’ve heard of it.

“But it really is a small world as Lianne was at Spalding High School at the same time that I was at the Grammar.

“We never crossed paths in Spalding but we were delighted to meet as Handlebards.

“Lianne is a great actress, she made out to be a great HandleBard and my endearing memory of Lianne was of her singing (Australian singer-songwriter) Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ while I accompanied on the mandolin.

“Hopefully, we’ll both have long, successful careers so that we can finally start an acting dynasty from Spalding.”

Lianne said: “I remember the night I found out that Paul Hilliar was from Spalding.

“It was months after we’d first met and I had absolutely no idea.

“I was so shocked that he even knew where Spalding was, let alone that he’d gone to Spalding Grammar School.

“I think I ended up telling all of our friends that fact at least twice and we went on to rave about how Sheddy’s (Turners Fish Restaurant in Spalding) did the best chips and how we wished we could go for drinks in The Ivy Wall.”

Despite what she called the “unstable and unsociable” perils of acting, Lianne has managed to win a starring role in new feature film, historical drama Bikini Blue directed by Polish filmmaker Jarek Marszewski.

Lianne said: “I really enjoyed it because I got to travel all over Poland during the filming which was an amazing opportunity.

“Having the name of RADA on my CV definitely helps when auditioning as I think that people trust the reputation it has built for itself.

“The training itself at RADA is incredible and I am very grateful to have trained there.

As for the future, Lianne said: “There are many roles I hope to play one day.

“But for now, I think I’d like to keep stretching myself and play different types of characters so that I can keep growing as an actor.

“Having said that, I think I’d like to play someone really gritty in a contemporary play next - that would be fun.

“But my first love was the stage and there is nothing like the buzz you get from going on a character’s journey in front of an audience night after night.

“It’s the best job in the world.”