Talent spotted early - Peterborough’s Himesh Patel in the biggest British movie of the summer, Yesterday

The 2006 cast of  Humpty Dumpty at Great Gidding village hall with  Himesh Patel as Humpty
The 2006 cast of Humpty Dumpty at Great Gidding village hall with Himesh Patel as Humpty

He made his name in one of TV’s biggest soaps and is now starring in the smash-hit rom-com Yesterday, but Himesh Patel cut his acting teeth right here in Peterborough.

Himesh joined EastEnders as a 17-year-old in 2007, while attending Young Actors Company classes at The Cresset, but his acting and singing talent had already been spotted.

Himesh Patel as Jack Malik and Ed Sheeran as himself.''PA Photo/Universal Pictures/Jonathan Prime.

Himesh Patel as Jack Malik and Ed Sheeran as himself.''PA Photo/Universal Pictures/Jonathan Prime.

The Sawtry youngster had already caught the eye of the staff at the city’s highly respected Key Youth Theatre - plus as these photos from the PT archives show, teachers at Prince William School in Oundle, who cast him in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and the Great Gidding village panto team, who cast him as Humpty Dumpty!

Peterborough Telegraph columnist John Cooper, now an acting tutor at the Tu Danse Studios in Newark Road, said: “I used to work as a youth theatre director at the Key Theatre summer schools and Himesh was in my group a couple of times.

“One year (2004) we cast him as as the main man in Jesus Christ Superstar. He was a really lovely singer and very humble, so we figured he was the best choice for the messiah. No beard, but he was only about 12.

“I didn’t get to know him that well but I remember him as a very polite, conscientious and quite serious young man. I saw him years later at a funeral and he was very kind.

Himesh in rehearsal for The  Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at Prince William School, Oundle. in 2006

Himesh in rehearsal for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at Prince William School, Oundle. in 2006

“Who would have thought he’d grow up to be so talented and so handsome!”

Paul Collings, a director of Kindred Drama, which now runs the Key Youth Theatre, also fondly remembers Himesh for his singing and sense of humour.

Paul, who has been involved at KYT for around 20 years, said: “We have loads of memories of him at Summer School, Easter School and KYT.

“One of our favourites is when he sang ‘Candle In The Wind’ at an Easter School as a solo - it was beautiful!!

“We always remember his incredibly dry sense of humour too - a really lovely, funny and charming boy.”

You can follow in Himesh’s footsteps - KYT summer school for children aged 7-18 runs July 29-August 3, and August 5 to 10.

Yesterday is now showing at Showcase cinema and you can see a screening at the Key Theatre on August 4.

Here is Matt Adcock’s review of Yesterday (cert 12a), directed by Danny Boyle:

When you absolutely must have a feel-good romantic comedy – Richard ‘Love Actually’ Curtis is your man – here he teams up with director Danny ‘Trainspotting’ Boyle to bring a musical spin to the well-worn boy / girl formula.

The plot sees struggling musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) whose lack of success is making him think he should just give up. The only people who seem to support his dreams are his childhood friend Nick (Harry Michell) and loyal manager Ellie (Lily James).

Jack’s world is rocked one night when a freak occurrence sees the whole world ‘lose’ memories of things like cigarettes and more importantly the band ‘The Beatles’… He gets hit by a bus and wakes up to discover that The Beatles have never existed so quickly sets about claiming their music as his own.

On the back of some of the best tunes the world has ever known Jack quickly becomes a massive star, but the price of fame is that he risks losing Ellie’s as yet unrequited love. Does getting to mix with the likes of Ed Sheeran (who delivers a nice cameo) and find worldwide fame make up for forsaking his true love?

Patel whose acting chops were cut in EastEnders is extremely likeable and can carry a tune which helps. Lily James is great as the girl next door high-school teacher and the two have winning chemistry which is essential to the love story at the heart of this slightly odd tale.

Sure, it gets gooey but it’s handled with Curtis’s stylish crowd-pleasing charm and Boyle directs with a confident hand even if there isn’t much room for him to dazzle with his trademark flair.

A mild element of peril is introduced as it appears that someone might be on to his plagiarism – will Jack be exposed as the sham that he is or can he find a way to pull off his superstar status and maybe win the heart of the girl too?

Yesterday’s masterstroke however is the tunes of The Beatles – they are so good that even as the predictable plot unfolds the sheer genius of the songs keeps you going. There’s enough humour and well-observed notes on fame and heartbreak to make this a worthwhile investment of time.

Smash hits and love – they say all you need is love but why not have both!

Rating: 8/10