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Ex-Spalding Grammar School student lands role in world's longest-running play

A Spalding-educated actor is full of excitement ahead of making his debut on the world-famous London West End theatre stage.

Paul Hilliar (30), is to play the lead role of Detective Sergeant Trotter in thriller writer Agatha Christie's "whodunnit" play, The Mousetrap, when it reopens in October.

The role is a major breakthrough for Paul who was Head Boy at Spalding Grammar School in 2007-08 and also a member of the town's St Nicolas Players where his roles included that of Benjamin Braddock in the theatre group's 2008 production of The Graduate.

Ex-Spalding Grammar School student Paul Hilliar is to take the lead role in the London West End production of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap.Photo supplied. (38445394)
Ex-Spalding Grammar School student Paul Hilliar is to take the lead role in the London West End production of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap.Photo supplied. (38445394)

Paul said: "As an actor, you spend a lot of time trying to make things happen as much as possible because it's the writers, casting directors and producers who hold the most power in this industry.

"I bumped into a friend of mine who had been in The Mousetrap before and I invited her casting agent to come and see me in a show.

"He then put me up for The Mousetrap which I saw for the first time in January this year when I knew there would be an audition for me.

"I also got hold of the script which I read through twice so as to prepare for every single character I could be up for.

Paul eventually landed his starring role in March just before The Mousetrap was forced to close after a continuous run of nearly 68 years, most recently at London's St Martin's Theatre, making it the world's longest-running play.

"When my agent called me to say that I'd got the part, I felt so much relief and excitement because it's been a lot of hard work and you have to sacrifice so much for any creative pursuit," Paul said.

"It's the biggest job I've ever had and because The Mousetrap is a show that's been going for nearly 70 years, it's a kind of theatrical legend."

The highlight of Paul's acting career before The Mousetrap, which will reopen with social distancing measures in place for the cast and audience, was in 2015 when he was put forward by the Oxford School of Drama as one of its students for the annual Sam Wanamaker Festival at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London.

"Each drama school in the UK put forward two students who were the strongest at Shakespeare and they got the chance to perform at the Globe for five minutes," Paul said.

"It was the greatest feeling of my life, although every student who graduates from drama school has a certain amount of confidence built into them for what is an incredibly insecure career."

Rehearsals for The Mousetrap start for Paul and his seven co-stars are due to start at St Martin's Theatre in September.

He said: "We'll have to abide by social distancing rules which will be strange for an actor," Paul said.

"But I thrive on performing and feel more at home on the stage than anywhere else.

"I do believe this is what I was born to do and every time I have moments of doubt, I very quickly realise that acting is what's in my heart."

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