A SCHOOLBOY picked to play Billy Elliot on the West End stage was back in town to speak about his whirlwind experience of wowing audiences and being recognised in the street.
Hartlepool’s Ali Rasul had a quick visit back home to see his proud family – and even managed to spend a day back in class with his fellow students at the town’s High Tunstall College of Science.
When asked about his time in the West End, the talented 12-year-old says he is “loving it”.
The Mail reported last month that the youngster had landed the part of the boy who shunned a life down the coal mine for a ballet career.
Since then, Ali, the 33rd boy cast in the part and the only one lucky enough to do so from the North-East, has appeared in 10 performances of the production, at London’s Victoria Palace Theatre.
Ali said he had no first-night nerves before his debut performance.
He coolly said: “I was more relaxed than anything. “It was a bit of a shock to see so many people in the audience, but I got over it.
“I just love dancing and being in front of an audience.
“I can’t believe I’m in Billy Elliot.
“I try to progress with each performance, and I get on well with everybody there.”
He added that he didn’t think of himself as a celebrity, but admitted he felt “a bit famous”, saying: “Some people have been coming up to me and saying ‘you’re the kid from Billy Elliot’.”
His proud uncle Tariq Rasul said: “He is getting a bit more attention from the girls!”
Ali said a typical day for him living in the ‘Billy House’ with the four other boys he shares the part with starts with a school lesson from 9am til noon and then from 2pm-5pm.
They then have rehearsals before the performance starts at 7.30pm.
He said there are always two Billys in the theatre and one of the boys will be on standby in case anything goes wrong.
Ali, who lives with uncle Saleem Rasul and siblings Neena, 13, Shaane, 10, Natasha, nine, and four-year-old Esha in St Paul’s Road, was due to perform tonight, followed by a show on Monday and then Thursday.
He is due back in Hartlepool next Friday and he will stay in town until a week on Wednesday, before returning to the capital for a performance the day after.
Ali, who has taken pride of place in the Billy Elliot Hall of Fame, in the show programme, trained with the Debbie Barrass Academy, in Murray Street, and he recently returned to the town studio, where he showed fellow pupils his moves.
Ali, who was a member of town hip hop troop Lil Diamondz, a junior off-shoot of Ruff Diamond, landed the part of Billy last October after countless auditions in Newcastle and London and spent eight months training.