Actor and TV personality Darren Day is looking forward to returning to Torbay in the hit musical Footloose and has a ‘love’ of Torbay having spent a lot of time in the area, writes DAWN GILLINGWATER.
“I was there a few months ago as Billy Flynn in Chicago and I genuinely do love it down there,” said Darren.
“I did my first-ever summer season at the Festival Theatre in Paignton, that’s going back some. We also holidayed there as a kid.
“It was lovely to be there for Chicago, but it will be even better this time as it’s summer time.”
He’s loving playing Rev Shaw Moore in Footloose, based on the 1980s film of the same name, but says it is a far cry from his own life.
“Oh my lord, when I think of all the characters I’ve played over the years this is pushing the public’s imagination with me playing a Rev,” joked Darren.
“In the last few months I’ve gone from playing Billy, a ruthless money grabbing lawyer to a holier than though reverend. The reverend is an interesting role, I loved the movie and have always been a fan of the music.
“With a lot of musicals, someone gets the rights to a back catalogue and then the musical is written around the songs. In Footloose the songs were written specifically for the film and the story. They are instantly recognisable 80s hits and carry the story.
“It’s such a feel-good show. One minute you have the character Willard played by Jake Quickenden, or Luke Friend in Torquay, on stage in gold hot pants, the next minute you have more of an emotional story of the Reverend and his daughter. There are some incredible musicians and the cast is just great.
“Ironically 12 years ago I met the producers of Footloose and Chicago within about six weeks of each other and both said we like you but you don’t look old enough to play the rev or Billy, the downside is I must now look old enough.
“Since then, both roles have been on my bucket list as I’d researched them to meet the producers and really liked the characters, so to play them consecutively I’ve ticked them off. It doesn’t get much better.”
During his career, Darren has starred in top musicals taking over from Phillip Schofield in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as well as Grease, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Rocky Horror Show and so many more.
He considers himself ‘very lucky’ to have gone straight back into work when theatres reopened following lockdown’s performing in Chicago and now onto Footloose.
“It’s like the roaring 20s being able to celebrate and enjoy live entertainment again. It’s an amazing feeling to be on stage and the same feeling it did at the beginning of my career when everything was fresh and magical. The audiences feel that as well.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s opening press night or a rainy Wednesday matinee Footloose gets a standing ovation, it gets a standing ovation after every show. It’s an amazing show with an incredibly talented cast.”
Over the years, Darren has been open about his battles with addiction and mental health and has revealed it’s all thanks to his mate Robbie Williams that he’s now on the right road.
Darren said it was the superstar who came to his rescue four years ago and got him with the same psych team that helped him out with his own spiralling problems.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Rob, it’s as simple as that,” said Darren frankly.
“I called him in absolute pieces in 2018 when I was in such a state, he said leave it all to me.
“He has supported my recovery. We have late night Facetime chats after shows and it’s great to be able to talk to someone who gets it.
“Obviously, he has the fame and fortune and I won’t put myself in the same league, but it’s amazing to have this incredible friend who is always there. We just have a real laugh.
“I was in Dubai a few months ago when I was in Chicago and it can be a lonely time touring as I can’t go out to bars socialising,” said Darren.
“We Facetimed early in the run and I said how lonely I was. Then three days before the end of the run I got a text to say ‘I’m here mate’, he’d flown to Dubai for my last three nights. Then we caught Covid together!”
Darren was diagnosed with depression in 2004 and was put on a concoction of different meds, but was misdiagnosed. He has now revealed he has bipolar and borderline personality disorder.
“I’m also on the ADHD and Asperger’s spectrum, he said.
“I now have the right therapy and the right meds. Just knowing what you have so that you can deal with it is so important.”
Darren, who was a poster boy of the 1990s, is now helping others by speaking out on his social media.
He’s also given speeches at the end of performances during Mental Health Awareness Week.
“There are so many young people out there who need help, said Darren.
“This girl who was about 14 threw her arms around me at the stage door and said ‘thank you for helping me feel not so alone’. Even now thinking about it I could just cry.
“Over that week I had well over 500 messages on social media from young people struggling who hadn’t spoken out about it and were afraid to tell their parents or friends. I’m just gonna keep going with it and if it helps people, my work is done.”
Footloose is at the Princess Theatre, Torquay, from August 9-13. For tickets, visit www.atgtickets.com
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