Entertainment & Arts

Broken arm drama over hotel play The Armour

Armour Image copyright other
Image caption Armour is set in three real hotel rooms

Playwright Ben Ellis has told how he broke his arm just as he was racing to complete his new drama.

His new play, The Armour, was commissioned to mark the 150th anniversary of London's famous hotel The Langham.

Staged inside the hotel, it opened this week with Finty Williams and S Club 7 star Hannah Spearitt leading the cast.

After being chosen as The Langham's writer-in-residence, Ellis had only weeks to finish the play.

He worked with theatre company Defibrillator to create three inter-linked stories set in different centuries during the hotel's lifetime.

"It was pretty full on," he said. "In the middle of working on the second draft I was playing five-a-side football and I broke my arm protecting my head from a well-struck ball.

Image copyright other
Image caption Hannah Spearritt plays a popstar on the comeback trail

"It was my dominant right arm, so I had to learn to type very quickly with my left hand."

'Understanding Napoleon'

He finished the play single-handedly, literally, crafting three acts which are performed in different rooms around the hotel.

The first, set in 2015, sees Spearritt as an international pop-star with "more twitter followers than the population of Venezuela" on a comeback tour after a period of self-destruction.

The second story is set in 1973, when The Langham was used by the BBC for a suite of recording studios, storage and the BBC Club.

The final act takes place in 1871, with Emperor Napoleon III and his wife Eugenie (Williams) seeking refuge at the newly-built hotel while in exile from France.

Ellis thinks his injury helped him understand the Napoleon character in different way.

"In the third story he takes (opium tincture) laudanum. I got put on some pretty strong painkillers when they'd worked out I'd broken my arm in two places. So I related to to some of his flightier moments!"

The play is Defibrillator's second collaboration with The Langham following last year's production of Tennessee Williams's The Hotel Plays.

Ellis's previous work includes writing for Headlong's Decade, while his play Eighty Eight was shortlisted in 2008 for the Bruntwood Prize.

The Armour runs at The Langham until 4 April.

An interview with Hannah Spearritt will appear on the BBC News website next week.

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