News: Janie Dee and Forbes Masson lead cast of Laughing Boy by Stephen Unwin

Jermyn Street Theatre has announced that Janie DeeForbes Masson and Alfie Friedman will lead the cast of the world premiere Laughing Boy, written and directed by Stephen Unwin after Justice for Laughing Boy by Sara Ryan.  The production runs from 25 April to 25 May.

Laughing Boy is a true story.  It is the story of Connor Sparrowhawk.  Connor is 18 and is, well … Connor.   He loves buses, Eddie Stobart, and Lego. He‘s also autistic and has learning disabilities. When he dies an entirely preventable death in NHS care, his mum Sara can’t get a straight answer as to how it happened. But Sara and her family won’t stop asking questions and soon an extraordinary campaign emerges. Demanding the truth, it uncovers a scandal of neglect and indifference that goes beyond Connor’s death to thousands of others. 

This is that story but is also a portrait of Connor himself – a young man who generated enormous joy in his family and friends, a boy who was surrounded by laughter and love wherever he went.

Both personal and political, Sara Ryan’s impassioned, frank, and surprisingly funny story bursts onto the stage for the first time.    Writer and director Stephen Unwin returns to Jermyn Street Theatre following his first play the acclaimed All Our Children and directing the sold out hit Farm Hall

Double Olivier Award winning Janie Dee, whose recent roles include The Motive and the Cue at The National Theatre,  Hand to God at The Vaudeville Theatre and The Seagull at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, plays Sara, Forbes Masson, who was last seen at Jermyn Street Theatre in Farm Hall and whose recent roles include Jekyll & Hyde at The Royal Lyceum Edinburgh and The Taxidermist’s Daughter at Chichester Festival Theatre, plays Rich, and Alfie Friedman who appeared in The Witches of Eastwick at The Sondheim Theatre and The Undeclared War for Channel 4/Peacock, plays Connor. Further casting is to be announced. The casting director is Ginny Schiller CDG.

Stepen Unwin says –

“It’s a real honour to bring Connor Sparrowhawk’s story to the stage and I’m touched that Sara Ryan has entrusted me with it. I just hope Laughing Boy catches the love and laughter, the grief and the commitment, and the creativity, energy and blazing commitment that was the mark of the original campaign for justice for Connor and a better world for so many. As the father of a young man with learning disabilities and epilepsy, this runs deep.”

Sara Ryan says –

“This adaptation will bring what should be a national scandal to new audiences. I look forward to the laughter, the love and the sheer brilliance it will encapsulate, while packing a mighty punch. 

Jermyn Street Theatre Artistic Director Stella Powell-Jones says –

When I first read Laughing Boy the thing that struck me is that it was epic but at the same time, it couldn’t be more personal. It contains everything: the tragedy of Connor’s death, the joy of his life, the terrible consequences of when we don’t pay attention and the changes that become possible when we do. Stephen’s play is lean, quickfire, a call to the imagination. That feels so much in the spirit of Sara’s work, her campaign #JusticeforLB, which insisted people imagine, and then act, to make things better for people with learning disabilities and their families. To have Alfie, Forbes and Janie tell this story in the intimacy of our space is a great privilege.

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