Throughout history, the art of ventriloquism has marvelled audiences up and down the land and was a staple of any variety show. It’s clear that Britain’s fascination with a comic and his plastic or wooden talking doll is just as enduring as entertainment itself and has spawned a whole host of familiar faces who we love to see bringing inanimate figures to life. Comic and ventriloquist Steve Hewlett first discovered he had the rare talent to throw his voice when he saw Jimmy Tamley on the grand final of New Faces in 1987. At merely twelve years old, Steve realised his plight and spent the next twenty years making it happen. These were the days before Facebook and Twitter and it was more difficult to interact with people from the world of entertainment but Steve managed to track him down and knock his door to ask his advice on how he should make it in showbiz. Unbeknown to Steve, he would spend the next ten years touring Britain as Tamley’s roadie; a great introduction to the world of entertainment.
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Just ten years later, Steve found himself on ITV’s The Big Big Talent Show attempting to emulate his hero. Following the success of fellow ventriloquist Paul Zerdin who won the series in 1996, Steve hoped that lightning would strike twice. Yet unfortunately he was unable to reach the final rounds and continued to work cruise ships and summer seasons. He also used this time to write a body of material which formed his early routines. In 2006 Steve was honoured to be asked to be the new voice of Archie Andrews in a special tribute to the legendary ventriloquist Peter Brough. Renowned for making an unsuccessful move to television as a result of not being able to control his lips from moving, Peter Brough’s failure was a vital lesson for the whole entertainment landscape. Despite this, Brough remains one of the pioneers of British ventriloquism and to step into his shoes was a fantastic accolade for Steve.
Just a year later, Steve found himself auditioning for yet another talent show in the form of Britain’s Got Talent. There seems to be a misconception that reality talent shows are solely for members of the public, yet if you’re already in the business it can also be the perfect catalyst to reinvent already successful careers. By the time that Steve found himself on the famous BGT stage, he’d already enjoyed a twenty year career and had worked alongside giants of entertainment including Ken Dodd and Bruce Forsyth. Yet Simon Cowell and Britain’s Got Talent gave Steve a platform to gain success on a nationwide scale which in turn helped to put ventriloquism back on the entertainment map. Despite coming fourth in the 2013 final, BGT was able to make Steve into a star and open an endless array of opportunities.
Steve Hewlett’s rise to fame has coincided with the rediscovery of ventriloquism thanks in part to performers such as Nina Conti and Paul Zerdin who have been instrumental to the resurgence of this art. There seems to be a significant boom in the popularity of what was considered a dying art just ten years ago. Yet it’s not necessarily on television or radio, instead it’s found another home online via YouTube where lots of Steve Hewlett protégés can post endless hours of content. Maybe this is the natural path for Variety of this nature? But for Steve, he finds himself in the transition stage where ventriloquism seems to still be an important part of theatrical Variety and prides himself on being able to make a living from something he loves.
In 2015 Steve was honoured when he accepted an opportunity to support The Osmonds on their UK tour. This was a proud moment for the man who grew up watching shiny floor spectaculars and now was supporting the legendary group night after night to packed out theatres all around Britain. The success of the show prompted him to realise that there was an appetite for a live show dedicated to the art of ventriloquism. His first live show Thinking Outside The Box toured the country in 2014 and featured his long time stooge Arthur Lager. Apart from Arthur Larger, Steve maintains a healthy array of puppet friends from Simon Cowell to The Silver Fox and it’s incredible just how quickly each of them come to life. This is absolute testament to Steve’s talent as a writer and performer.
In 2018 Steve prepares to launch his new tour entitled Arthur Larger’s Big Night In with the opening night being tonight (Friday 2nd March) at The Under Ground Theatre, Eastbourne. So prepare for Steve, Arthur and the gang to appear at a theatre near you very soon and it’s definitely worth a ticket! It was a great pleasure to meet Steve Hewlett and wish him all the very best for the next stage of a wide ranging career.
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