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From X-Factor to a new drama about Hillsborough
From reality TV talent shows to gritty dramas about murder and the Hillsborough football disaster, it's all in a day's work to talented actor Ashley Emerson! But there is a further string to Ashley's bow that he loves with the same passion and intensity as all his other roles. And audiences in Staffordshire will be able to see him give way to this light-hearted side when he stars in the title role of the popular pantomime, Dick Whittington, which is being performed at the Lichfield Garrick theatre from Thursday 29 November 2018 to Saturday 5 January 2019. Ashley, who comes from Leicestershire, graduated from the London School of Musical Theatre in 2007. He first found national fame during a series of appearances on television's X-Factor in 2010, making it all the way through to Simon Cowell's judges house.
That was followed by a further talent show run five years later when, in 2015, he reached the live semi-finals of Britain's Got Talent. On both occasions, Ashley performed a series of pop songs - a legacy of his time at the London School of Musical Theatre when he learnt the full range of singing, acting and dancing. That vocal ability has seen Ashley land lead roles in a number of musicals, including Danny in Grease, Sky in Mamma Mia, and Sammy in last year's tour of The Wedding Singer. But alongside his singing roles, he has also fully embraced the art of acting, with impressive results. Ashley says: "I have been singing and acting for just over ten years, everything from reality TV to musicals, and television to film, but also including lots of panto. But I am doing a fair bit of television and film at the moment, which is really exciting."
Ashley pictured (centre) with the rest of the main cast of Dick Whittington. Credit Pamela Raith Photography
In fact, Ashley, who will be seen in Dick Whittington at the Lichfield Garrick throughout the festive period, will also be seen on our TV screens over Christmas in a Netflix film called The Princess Switch. But his next television appearance will be considerably more gritty and dramatic. Ashley explains: "I have just filmed an ITV drama called Anne about the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 which claimed the lives of 96 football fans. It's a four-part series which is out next year." Anne tells the story of Anne Williams who was instrumental in the campaign for justice for the Hillsborough victims who included her 15-year-old son Kevin. Sadly, Anne passed away in 2013, but her daughter Sara is involved in the production of the series. Ashley adds: "I am playing a real-life West Midlands police officer called Sgt John Killoch who was one of the officers who went to re-investigate what happened at Hillsborough. My brother and dad are both police officers with Leicestershire Constabulary, so the fact I'm from a police family helped give me a rounded view of the whole thing, and I have a huge amount of sympathy for the families involved and also for the police."
Ashley has previous experience of serious drama having earlier appeared in a two-part ITV series called Code of a Killer, starring John Simm and David Threlfall, which was screened in 2015 and told the story of the double murder of two Leicestershire schoolgirls. So, is doing pantomime welcome relief from these sort of roles? He replies: "For me, panto is an art form in itself. People around the world don't really know what it's about. It's fun to do and I am passionate about it. Of cou,rse there is slapstick and comedy, but it's important that I play my role with integrity. It is very much an acting role, although obviously, I enjoy the comedy side of it".
Ashley, who has also played the 'prince' or 'hero' role in the likes of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, will be starring in Dick Whittington at the Lichfield Garrick from November 29 this year to January 5 next year. Tickets priced from £12 to £30 are available by visiting www.lichfieldgarrick.com or by calling the theatre box office on 01543 412121.