The QT

Thursday 20 June 2024

Bald truth makes for a great show

A true story of what it’s like to not have any hair is playing out on a stage in North Tyneside. Sam Wonfor hears from Newcastle performer, Sam Macgregor who mined his own experiences to create Truly, Madly, Baldly
Sam Macgregor started losing his hair five years ago and his show grew out of that experience. Credit: Caden Elliott

A show which finds the funny as well as the challenges of living with alopecia has opened at a Tyneside theatre.

Following a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2023, Newcastle performer Sam Macgregor booked a chunky run of Truly, Madly, Baldly at Laurels Theatre in Whitley Bay.

Bafta-nominated actor, Jack Robertson (Gerry and Sewell, Metroland Comedy) will be joining him on stage.

“The audience can expect a lot of references to famous bald people, use of wigs and daft yet emotionally powerful scenes about hair loss,” Sam says, taking a break from rehearsals before opening night. 

“Laurels is the right fit for my show — it offers a great intimate experience. I’m really excited and maybe a little nervous.”

Sam, who wrote the piece he’s performing, began losing his hair in 2019 after moving to London at the age of 25 to pursue his ambitions to work in the theatre.

“I made the decision to get into acting in my final year at [Sunderland] uni where I was studying sociology and journalism,” he says, rewinding the story a bit.

Following stints at the People’s Theatre in Heaton and Live Theatre’s Youth Theatre in Newcastle, Sam did a one-month course with the National Youth Theatre before travelling Stateside for a three-month stay in LA, where he attended the Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theatre.

“It was both amazing training and a long holiday — the World Cup was on and England made it to the semis, so a lot of my money was spent on beer!”

Sam (right) and Jack Robertson in rehearsals for Truly Madly Baldly at Laurels Theatre. Credit: Caden Elliott

Back in London and it was within a couple of weeks of arriving that Sam’s hair “randomly started falling out at rapid speed”.

“I had to get myself to the barbers ASAP to try and sort it all out. I was made aware by the barber that I had a really good shaped skull, which I had never been told before,” he adds.

Sam was aware of the effects of alopecia, having seen his mum go through a similar experience during a holiday in Cyprus around 10 years before.

“I remember it well enough but, to be honest, I think she hid a lot of how she was really feeling at the time because I suspect she didn’t want to burden her children with her emotions,” he says.

I started writing my thoughts and feelings about my change in appearance and this developed into a monologue

Sam Macgregor, North East theatre maker

“As I’ve got older I have become way more in tune with this and then of course when I developed alopecia we now had this shared experience — although very different at the same time.”

The arrival of Covid saw Sam return to his parents’ home in Newcastle, securing a job working for NHS111.

“In late 2020 I started writing my thoughts and feelings about my change in appearance and this developed into a monologue which I performed back down at London to two staggered audiences of around 100 people,” he remembers.

“It was received very well and I knew I was on to something.”

A string of scratch night performances followed and then, with the help of some Arts Council funding, Sam developed the monologue into a more substantial piece, which he took to the Edinburgh Fringe for a month last summer.

Sam says it was heartwarming to see people with alopecia at his Edinburgh Fringe shows. Credit: Caden Elliott

“Doing the Fringe for the entire month is a testament to any person in theatre, no matter the position,” he says.

“But the show had a good time. Even though I only had one person attend my first performance, it didn’t stop me from cracking on and going out each time and kicking the s*** out of it.”

While Truly, Madly, Baldy is a show for everyone, Sam says he was pleased to see fellow alopecia sufferers in the audience.

“Overall I want everyone to see this show because it’s as educational as it is entertaining, but we did get a fair few people with alopecia in at the Fringe which was heartwarming. 

“I don’t expect people with alopecia to engage with this play purely based on the fact that they have this condition, because it affects everyone differently. But those that did come and who do have alopecia enjoyed it and got the overall message of what I’m trying to do.”

Truly, Madly, Baldly is at Laurels Theatre, Whitley Bay until May 4. For tickets, visit the website.


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