Circus has a starring role in film

It is an auditorium more used to colourful circus acts but as filming got under way for a major film, one of Yarmouth's landmark venues was transformed into a nightclub.

It is an auditorium more used to colourful circus acts but as filming got under way for a major film, one of Yarmouth's landmark venues was transformed into a nightclub.

The ring's troupe was replaced by an equally outlandish cast of clubbers as cameras began rolling on the first day of filming of Malice in Wonderland.

Yarmouth's Hippodrome Circus has seen performances by Charlie Chaplin, Lilly Langtry and even the politician Lloyd George in its colourful 100 years of history, but owner Peter Jay was adamant it was the first time it had ever been the set for a major film.

For shooting yesterday and today, the circus had been magically transformed into the interior of Heart's nightclub, the domain of gangster Harry Hunt who has just come out of jail to a homecoming party.

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For the 150 extras the energetic jigging up and down while holding exotic-looking cocktails - no alcohol sadly - was worth it for a sneak look at the film's stars.

The seedy hero is played by Nathaniel Parker, better known as the television detective Inspector Linley, while Maggie Grace, more familiar as Shannon Rutherford on the television series Lost, plays the role of Alice who enters the fantasy world of wonderland full of lowlifes based on Lewis Carroll's children's novel.

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Danny Dyer, famed for playing cockney hooligans and chirpy villains, features as Whitey, an enigmatic taxi driver, and one of the extras, Tim Weller - a taxi driver in real life - confesses he was only inspired to audition after giving a lift to the star in the back of his cab after a night out in Yarmouth.

Seafront holidaymakers had to give Mr Weller and other colourfully dressed extras - all in their clubbing finery - a second take as they grabbed a quick cigarette and drink break in the rain outside.

They ranged from security worker Daniel Betts, 26, and Lowestoft builder Gary Regan, 30, to Yarmouth College performing arts students Leia George, 24, and Morgen Dunn, 17, for whom the film appearance was a dream come true.

“We already think we have spotted some of the stars,” said Leia excitedly.

As the next of the seamlessly endless takes resumed inside to the sound of thumping music, instructions were barked out to the novice actors on the dance floor to keep their distance from the gangster's minders. “You would not want to be behind them or you would get shot”.

Members of the Brazilian Flying trapeze act, The Neves - stars of the Hippodrome's future summer circus - had been recruited to perform at Harry's homecoming, and had to manfully cling to a rope during another pause for more instructions and herbal cigarettes to be handed out.

Outside, it was equally chaotic, as an endless stream of actors flitted between the make-up caravan and hotdog van.

Mr Jay said: “We had been talking with the film makers, Future Films, for a long time and they were amazed by all the venues here. It has given me a real buzz to see them so taken with Yarmouth.

“I always thought film making could help the regeneration and the producers are already talking about shooting another film here.”

Tomorrow the film makers move on to the town's Royal Naval Hospital and finish the day at the seafront Windmill Theatre - another of Mr Jay's buildings - the exterior of which is being used for Heart's nightclub.

Line producer Charles Salmon described Yarmouth as an “untapped resource for really great locations”.

“The production value of a venue like this is tremendous and everyone here has shown us great generosity,” he said.

Mr Salmon said after filming there would be six months of post production and it was likely to be a year before the film's release.

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