An against-all-odds sporting triumph involving a Norfolk-owned racehorse has been turned into a new stage drama. Sprowston Boy shocked the racing world when he romped home 8 lengths ahead of the pack in the Queen Alexandra Stakes in 1987, jockeyed by the first woman to ever win at Ascot, Gay Kelleway.
The horse was owned by two ‘local Norfolk lads’ who grew up as next-door neighbours on Sprowston Road in Norwich; salesman Geoff Whiting and sixth generation coal salesman Kenny Blanch. Now the story of their surprise success is being turned into a play by Geoff’s granddaughter Katie-anna Whiting.
Her theatre company ‘The Whiting’s On The Wall’ raised funds through Arts Council England, and partnered The Garage, Norwich and The National Horse Racing Museum in order to make the play a reality. She says “I’ve pieced together newspaper articles, letters and interviews with both Gay and my family, it’s been a real team effort!”
The show stars Katie-anna and Florence Wright, who can currently be seen on cinema screens in ‘The Flash’ movie. They will play several characters each, including racing pundits, horse-racing fans, Gay and Geoff. Audiences can expect projected images, puppetry, and original music provided by Skinny Boy Tunes.
She said “my grandad always dreamed of owning a horse, from working as a baker’s boy on the back of a horse cart, to his time fighting alongside mules in Rangoon during WWII, he never let go of his dream”.
Granddad Geoff’s love of horses even saw him run away from home to be a stable boy in furtherance of his dream to be a jockey himself – before his parents found out and brought him home to Norwich to get a “proper job” said Katie-anna. It was a love reinforced during wartime service when he was posted to Rangoon and worked with mules before having careers as baker’s boy and paraffin deliverer, then later running a care home at Horsford.
Sprowie retired to Felmingham, with a filly for company, where Geoff would visit him every day. Katie-anna adds, “It’s a real underdog success story. And it’s true. For anyone who knows ‘Dream Alliance’, or ‘Seabiscuit’, this has the same feel-good factor”
Horse Play’s tour begins at the Garage Norwich on November 3 and passed the finishing post at the National Horse Racing Museum in Newmarket on November 25. It also visits Wells Maltings, John Peel Centre for Creative Arts, The Seagull Theatre, Lakes End Village Hall, Aylsham Town Hall, Westacre Theatre, Old Buckenham Village Hall, Sedgeford Village Hall, Diss Corn Hall and Sheringham Little Theatre.
Full tour and ticket details at www.thewhitingsonthewall.com