Half a Person brings Smiths classics to the King’s Head Theatre

Joe Presley in Half a Person

Joe Presley in Half a Person - Credit: Archant

Call them morbid, call them pale – a stereotypical Smiths fan is always recognisable. Drifting about in a haze of unrequited love, most will don the elongated quiffs and bouquets de fleurs in their teenage years, but for some the lifestyle lingers melancholically beyond.

So is the case for twenty-something William in Half a Person – a new production at the King’s Head Theatre which sees a lonely Smiths fan wander from one bar to another, torn between the girl of his dreams and his best friend.

“It’s a coming of age story really,” says Joe Presley, 25, who plays William, “and it certainly connects with a lot of people who have fooled around in this romantic ­existence.

“William’s a bit of a hopeless romantic. You’ll find him in coffee shops using Smiths songs to put across all these emotions he can’t say otherwise.”

As is tradition, Presley was first drawn to The Smiths as a 16-year-old when he stumbled upon The Queen is Dead.

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When the chance came therefore to play the lead role in Half a Person, he was more than keen and that enthusiasm has paid off.

The production comes to the King’s Head on the back of a successful UK tour that included a sell-out performance at The Lowry, in The Smiths’ home town, Salford.

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“It was kind of terrifying being right in their backyard,” Presley admits, “especially since it’s very much a typical Londoner’s perspective of how it’s grim up North. There’s a few references to that, so I either had to kind of mutter them or ­really play upon it.”

Tormented by his manipulative crush Salome, the musical show sees Presley burst into a number of Smiths classics, as all the while his best friend Rick struggles with his own feelings for William.

With Half a Person sure to attract the super-fandom of the Moz Army, Presley has had to brush up on his knowledge – particularly of front man Morrissey.

“I’ve always been a Smiths’ fan, but I did have to take it to another level of fandom,” he said. “I was reading things like the Mozzapedia and watching interviews. It’s ­really ­interesting just to sit and watch the way he moves and talks.”

While previous runs have seen fans in Smiths T-shirts singing along to their favourite songs, Presley believes its themes of love, loneliness and friendship are universal enough to appeal to audiences who don’t like the band.

But it promises to be an ­un-missable celebration of the 80s icons.

“My favourite Smiths’ song – one of my favourite songs ever – is There is a light that never goes out,” Presley adds. “It’s just perfect.

“Johnny Marr is just an amazing guitarist – annoyingly impossible to play – and then lyrically they were so poetic, elegant and managed to speak to so many people.”

n Half a Person at the King’s Head Theatre from January 26 until February 16. For tickets and more information, visit www.kingsheadtheatre.com

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