Jim Broadbent plays ailing panto star in Hampstead playwright's radio drama

Jim Broadbent can currently be seen starring in the film The Duke but the West Hampstead actor

Jim Broadbent can currently be seen starring in the film The Duke but the West Hampstead actor can also be heard in radio play Norman Bows Out - Credit: Nick Wall

He may be starring on the big screen opposite Helen Mirren, but audiences can also catch West Hampstead actor Jim Broadbent in a moving radio play about a fading comic nearing his final curtain.

Norman Bows Out is written by Hampstead playwright Helen Kluger, and follows gin-swilling ventriloquist Norman Monk as he is about to play Widow Twanky in a provincial panto.

Kluger said: "He collapses on the first day of rehearsals and is taken to hospital and told he has weeks to live. His landlady offers to take him in and it's about his relationship with Betty and his ventriloquist dummy Willie.

"His final wish is to see his abusive former lover Kenny, who appears in Norman's fevered dreams."

Jim Broadbent plays Norman a ventriloquist with a dummy called Willy

Jim Broadbent plays Norman, a ventriloquist with a dummy called Willie - Credit: Courtesy of Helen Kluger

Kluger has penned more than 15 radio plays for Radio 4 and the World Service, including one about synchronised swimming, and Rukulibam about her Czech Holocaust survivor mother Zuska.

She originally studied acting at LAMDA alongside Broadbent, whose CV ranges from Harry Potter to Paddington, Moulin Rouge and now The Duke, about a taxi driver who steals a Goya painting as a political act. With his talent for playing clowns and likeable losers, the role of Norman was a good fit.

"I am particularly thrilled that Jim Broadbent is in this play," says Kluger. "I was at drama school with him and he used to get me into trouble by pulling this face and making me laugh. He is very quiet actor, not 'look at me'. He gives a wonderful performance in The Duke and he is perfect for this."

Hampstead playwright Helen Kluger has written numerous plays for Radio 4 and The World Service

Hampstead playwright Helen Kluger has written numerous plays for Radio 4 and The World Service - Credit: Supplied

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Kluger loves the medium of radio where writers are "left alone".

"As a writer it's your voice. If you write a film script, people take it over, it's by committee. A good radio play can stop you in your tracks. I think a lot of people discovered the joys of podcasts and radio during lockdown."

That said, she hopes to take Norman Bows Out to the screen and says: "It would make a perfect British film."

Norman Bows Out is on Radio 4 on March 23 at 2.15pm then available on BBC Sounds. Go to www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0015lqf