Student is Belper Festival’s Anne Boleyn

A young drama student who wowed audiences at Belper’s 2013 festival with her performance in Educating Rita is returning this year in another challenging role – Anne Boleyn.

Playwright George Gunby, who is also the festival’s organiser, has pretty much written the part for Ellie Ward having been impressed by her acting for several years.

The 20-year-old from Chesterfield was involved with the Pomegranate Youth Theatre when she first answered a call out for actors to take part in the Belper Short Play Festival.

“I didn’t know anything about it, but I knew that I wanted to act and whenever there was a part offered up I just went for it,” said Ellie.

“George is so creative in the way he works and we got on really well and I played several parts in the various plays including Rita in Educating Rita which was quite a challenge – but one I really enjoyed.”

Since then Ellie, a pupil at Brookfield in Chesterfield has completed a foundation course at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in Wigan and earned herself a coveted place at the Central School of Speech and Drama where she is still studying Drama, Applied Theatre and Education.

“Because I have been away I haven’t been involved in the festival for the last couple of years, but when George asked if I would be interested in playing Anne Boleyn I jumped at the chance as I know that you can always rely on George to write something good.

“I have seen the first drafts of the script and it really is quite interesting. It is based on the  final days of her life.

“I am currently researching the character very carefully because I want to get it just right. I have even been to the Tower of London.

“This is going to be the most complex part I have ever played and I feel privileged to have been asked to do it.”

George explained that when they chose Anne Boleyn as their subject they were looking for a character, that inspired, and she fitted the bill.

“She was intelligent, feisty, opinionated and politically savvy. Henry VIII was besotted by her and yet, just three years after they married, he had her executed,” he said.

“The motives behind Henry’s actions fascinated me. His need for a son and heir became an obsession and his disappointment with Anne’s ability to provide one grew.

“There are unanswered questions. Did Henry plot Anne’s downfall? Did Cromwell hatch a plot – a scenario so wild and bizarre – because Anne had become an incumberance to his ambition? Or was it all true; was Anne promiscuous and disloyal to Henry?

“Really, the play is as much about human behaviour, motivation and power. It’s about the lengths that people will go to maintain their position and influence.”

Ellie will be joined in the cast by another student from the Central School of Speech and Drama, Katy McCabe and Terry Stephenson (Cromwell) and Mik Horvath (George Boleyn)  who are hugely talented local actors.

Boleyn will be performed on May 30 at St. Peter’s Church, Belper at 7:30pm.Tickets are £10 and include a ‘Tudor Buffet’. Go to for details.

The picture of Ellie was taken for Belper Festival by Jenny Gavin-Wear of