Back to college with his own show before Edinburgh Fringe trip

Former Hurstpierpoint College student Will Kirkham is heading to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer with his own theatre show staged by his own theatre company.

William Kirkham
William Kirkham

First, though, he brings the show to the college’s New Bury Theatre, BN6 9JS on July 24 and 25 at 7.30pm; tickets £3;

The Stander Gang offers a fast-paced farcical play tracing the incredible true story of Andre Stander, a South African police officer turned rogue, who decides to rebel against the law and rob banks. The evening starts at 7.30pm. There will be live music before the show.

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18-year-old Will has just completed A levels and is aiming to do a foundation year at drama school in the autumn, going to ALRA (The Academy of Live & Recorded Arts in Wandsworth).

“I am going to use that year to see if drama school is for me and if it is, well, then, great and I will audition for some of the three-year BA courses. If it isn’t, well, then I will consider other options.”

But for the moment, the focus is very much on the new play which Will wrote himself. It will be delivered by Will’s own company Me, My Friends and I.

“I wrote the show for part of my A level, and we did a couple of performances at school. My drama teacher came up to me and said it was a really good show and we should look to take it to some fringe festivals. I found out about some of the fringe festivals and they wanted to know what the name of your company was, and I thought, well, OK, let’s create a company.”

He came up with a name which sums up what it’s all about. The company is Will plus his friends and fellow actors Archie Shields and James Pearson-Miles.

As for the show, the spark was a story Will saw online, the tale of a South African police officer who robbed banks in his lunchbreaks.

“I thought ‘Is this true?’ and I started reading all the parts of the story, and I was literally hooked. I thought that it could work as a play. There are so many elements to it and so I just started writing. It sounds a fairly serious story, and there is a film which I have watched… and in the film they put a serious take on it. But I wanted to do my own take. I thought ‘Let’s make this a bit whacky and a bit weird.’ There are only three of us in it and so there is lots of multi-roling, and some of the parts of the story are just so outrageous that you just think ‘How did that really happen?’ I thought let’s make it fun and quite fast-paced and let’s let the audience enjoy the story while perhaps making them think about what they are watching.”

The year is 1977. Andre Stander is the son of a Frans Stander, a general in the South African police force. Unwillingly forced into the life of a police officer after his national service in the South African border war, Andre turns to life of crime, becoming one of South Africa’s most notorious criminals by robbing banks all the while being a police officer. Starting with solo bank robberies, he then breaks out of prison with fellow inmates Allan Heyl and Leigh McCall. The trio form The Stander Gang...

Will is hoping the Edinburgh show could lead to other things: “I hope that the show won’t be a one-off but I am aware the two others have got other things that they want to pursue. One of them is a member of a band and is a really good drummer. But I have got an idea for a short film and I hope there will be other projects. I am hoping that we will be able to go back to Edinburgh with something else.”