Shropshire Star

Ludlow theatre legend determined the show must go on this Christmas despite devastating diagnosis

A town's local theatre legend says the show must go on even after he was devastatingly diagnosed with an incurable disease.

Steve Piper as Scrooge

Steve Piper, of the Two Score Theatre Company in Ludlow, was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in the summer after noticing his legs "grinding to a halt".

But Steve, who lives in Ludlow and has performed at the town's fringe festival every year since 1980, will be taking the lead role of Scrooge in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, on Friday, December 8.

It will be performed in the style of a radio play, with Steve in a wheelchair.

"This might be my swansong," said teacher Steve.

"The former rugby league player Rob Burrows, who has given MND such a high profile, noticed that the first thing to go was his voice. He started slurring at a rugby dinner.

"With me it has been my legs and arms so far, so I am hoping that my voice holds out until December."

Proceeds from the show to be held at St Laurence's Church on December 8 will be going to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Mr Piper, 69, has a matter-of-fact attitude to his diagnosis.

"I have just got to move on," he said.

"If I had the diagnosis in my 30s and 40s I would have been a lot more cheesed off. It is very frustrating but I have just got to move on and make the best of it.

"I have always been a bit of an optimist and I have got to move on. If it happened in my 20s and 30s I would have found it much harder to take.

"I have had a pretty good innings but now I have to focus on what I can do. I haven't let it get me down too much, that could lead to a downward spiral."

Steve is getting good support from his family and friends and is looking forward to making adaptations to his home, where he now has to sleep downstairs. He currently has to go to the leisure centre to have showers because he can't climb the stairs.

Two Score Theatre Company says it is putting on a "very special charity performance" of A Christmas Carol in aid of the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Dickens’s spooky masterpiece, which has thrilled audiences all over the globe for nearly 200 years, tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.

Scrooge, a character described as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner”, has been played by some of the leading actors of their time, including Alastair Sim, Michael Caine, Albert Finney - and Donald Duck.

Mr Piper, the driving force behind Ludlow's Old Dic Theatre Company’s annual irreverent take on the plays of William Shakespeare, joked: “Reading Dickens’ description of the character of Scrooge, it’s clear I have been type-cast. Bah! Humbug!

"I am looking forward to it and keeping my fingers crossed. I've had the script for a few weeks and we've had a whole cast read-through."

Two Score will be returning to St Laurence’s Church, where their previous production, Becket by Jean Anouilh, raised £1,000 for the local branch of Hope House children’s hospice, to present a one-off performance of a radio play version of A Christmas Carol, adapted by Giles Emerson and directed by local opera star Kim Begley.

Kim said: “We’re hoping to raise as much money as possible for a cause that deserves huge support and is obviously very close to our hearts.

“As with all Two Score productions, we are bringing together some of the best local talent - actors, musicians, technicians and backstage heroes - to produce a show to raise spirits and live in the memory and we so grateful to all those who are donating their time and talent to a very worthy cause.”

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, will be at St Laurence’s Church, Ludlow, on Friday, December 8 at 7.30pm.

Tickets are £10 from Ludlow Assembly Rooms Box Office.