Jack battled ME, then bagged West End dream
AYOUNG man who spent years incapacitated by a chronic illness is set to take a leading role on stage in the West End.
Jack Whittle, aged 24, of Clay Lane, Bamford, will play Sam Monaghan in The Comedy About a Bank Robbery at London’s Criterion Theatre until November 2019, after being an understudy for the role for a year.
Jack had been in sixth form at Bury Grammar School, preparing for a career in accountancy, when he became ill with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), aged 17.
The neurological condition which causes muscle pain and intense exhaustion, left him housebound for two years, living at home with his parents and sometimes so ill that he couldn’t even climb the stairs.
He began to re-evaluate his life and decided that, if he ever got better, he would do what he really wanted to and pursue a career in acting.
When he started to recover, Jack enrolled in a foundation course at ALRA North in Wigan.
He went on to study at the Guildford School of Acting, where he was nominated for Student Performer of the Year in the Stephen Sondheim Society Awards, and graduated last year with first class honours.
“Given how ill I was just a few years ago, it is pretty unbelievable,” Jack said.
“I’d like my story to give hope to people with ME. I know not everyone is going to perform in the West End, but I hope my story shows that a full recovery is possible.
“The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is not a normal show – as well as the acting demands, it’s also a massively physical performance.
“I admired the Mischief Theatre troupe while I was training at Guildford and now I get to work with them on one of their West End hits.
“It’s a fantastic show, a love story with real oldschool farcical humour and some epic stunts thrown in.
“In a sense, having had ME still makes me a better actor today. You can’t worry about people judging you or second guess yourself while you’re on stage, you have to trust your impulses while being creative and open enough to try new ideas.”
Jack’s dad Terry said: “As a family, we had the most terrible time trying to find something that would make him better, speaking to experts all over the world about what could help.
“For him to have come through that period and go on to achieve what he has is amazing. We’re hugely proud and had no idea he had such hidden talent.”
●●Jack Whittle in The Comedy About a Bank Robbery