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Shop Front Theatre, Graeme Hawley, Coventry, awardwinning Theatre Absolute, Belgrade Theatre

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Shop Front Theatre, City Arcade, Coventry. (l) Graeme Hawley, plays John Stape in Coronation Street, performs at the venue.CORONATION Street's Graeme Hawley skipped a pint at the Rovers Return to head to Coventry to help launch the UK's first professional shop front theatre.Graeme plays jailbird John Stape in the ITV soap, but took advantage of a filming break to head to the city for the official opening of the Shop Front Theatre - based at the former Fishy Moore's fish and chip shop at the city arcade.In fact, Graeme liked the shop-turned-theatre so much he now wants to take the idea back with him to Corrieland.He said: I live in Manchester now and I think I need to go back and start looking for an old chip shop. It's just such a great idea and I hope people in Coventry enjoy it."Graeme was born in Hinckley and one of his first stage roles was in Oliver! at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry when he was nine.He went on to train at Stratford College and has been a on-and-off regular in Coronation Street for the last several years although he laughingly said he spends most of his time in jail in the TV soap.Coventry's awardwinning Theatre Absolute will be making themselves at home at the city shop for the next 18 months and Graeme has worked with them many times over the years and is on their board.He even went to New York with the company with new drama 'Cloud Burst' and said he kept pestering them and pestering them until they gave him a job.Graeme said he would love to come back and do more work at Coventry's newest theatre space if filming on Coronation Street allows him time.He said: "It's such an exciting idea to take an empty space and turn it into something special."Actor John Flitcroft will also be giving lunchtime readings of A Christmas Carol at the Shop Front Theatre from Tuesday. Box office 024 7615 8340."

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