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Local thespian wins special award at Edinburgh Fringe

LOCAL actor, Pip Utton, recently won ‘The Stage Special Award’ at the Edinburgh Fringe for excellence in acting and for his contribution to the Fringe.

Pip began his acting career later in life having given up his job as a jeweller 20 years ago. Pip said, “I made the decision to change professions because I was bored of doing the same thing and I realised I could be doing it for the next 20-25 years. That, and a massive ego!

“I’ve always been very interested in theatre and performing. I had done a fair bit of amateur productions and always dreamed of being an actor. However I was always too busy trying to earn a living and pay a mortgage and too frightened of taking the risk.

“But there comes a time when you have to realise that you are not going to earn a fortune or even a lot of money, so why stay on the treadmill? My wife Nicky backed my decision and we gave it a shot, and I have been very lucky.”

Pip was presented with the award on the final Friday of the festival at a presentation ceremony on stage in St. Andrew Square. Pip said, “The Stage is the acting industry’s newspaper and website and each year it awards several prizes at the Edinburgh Fringe for various achievements. They award one ‘Special Award for Acting Excellence and contribution to the Fringe’ which I was very pleased to win and quite shocked.”

Pip, who has been performing at the Edinburgh Fringe for 23 years explained, “I think that it is a life-enhancing experience and urge anyone to experience it. I believe that the Edinburgh Fringe has a unique place in the performance world. It is not curated. Provided you can get a show together and find a venue, anyone can perform there. There is absolutely no quality control exercised by anyone.

“It is the biggest arts festival in the whole world and I am very proud to be not only a performer there, but have been on the Society’s board of directors for 20 years.”

Pip has been an associate at the Merlin Theatre for several years and always premieres his new work there. He said, “When it is possible for me to, I use the Merlin to rehearse in and build any set I need and work on the technical side of the production. The support of the Merlin is a very important part of my creative journey.

“Frome is very supportive of the performing arts in general. The Merlin especially supports local performers as much as it is able, and I am always flattered and surprised when people mention that they know what I am up to.

“For anyone interested in acting I would definitely recommend getting some good training. However, the last thing that young people should ever do is take too much notice of the advice old farts like me are eager to give.

“Just take note, if I can do it, you can. So do it and don’t be afraid or embarrassed to fail and never be embarrassed if you succeed. Get all the advice there is (and there will be lots of that around) then decide for yourself. Enjoy it, and if you don’t enjoy it, do something else.”

Pip, who is currently in Cyprus performing ‘Churchill’ said, “Paphos will be the European City of Culture in 2017 and as a run up to this, they have invited four solo performers from around the world to perform at the Ancient Odeon as a special preview of things to come. Then, the day after I get home, I am playing Adolf in Horningsham Village Hall – never a dull moment!

“Later this year I have performances of Adolf, Chaplin, Churchill and A Christmas Carol in Lithuania, Poland and UK, plus ‘Playing Maggie’ in her home town of Grantham. 2016 will see me in UK, UAE, Holland, Germany and who knows where.”