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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 May, 2003, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Saddam lookalikes try for play

By Stephen Dowling
BBC News Online Entertainment staff

Saddam lookalikes
The audition saw 14 fake Saddams take to the stage

More than a dozen Saddam Hussein lookalikes have auditioned for the role of the former Iraqi leader in a forthcoming show in London's West End.

The show, which will open in June, is a satirical review based on the recent war with Iraq and the New World Order.

The show's organisers were surprised at the turnout, as 14 actors and amateurs donned military fatigues and berets for the open audition at London's Riverside Theatre in Hammersmith.

As the script, by Feelgood author Alistair Beaton, is still being written, the lookalikes were required to do nothing more than wave to imaginary crowds in the manner of the deposed dictator.

The idea for the play came from theatre impresarios Michael Grade and Raymond Gubbay.

The show's director, Geoffrey Posner, said he was very happy with the interest. "We had no idea how many people were going to turn up", he said. The audition was advertised in The Stage newspaper.

Fake Saddam

The 14 Saddams included one woman, Londoner Phyllis Norton, who said she auditioned "for a laugh", and thought she had ended up looking more like comedian Groucho Marx than the former Iraqi leader.

Other potential Saddams included a 34-year-old actor with a strong resemblance to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and a former company director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Posner said "some look more like him than others" but the show's creators were looking more for someone to do a good impression of Saddam than an exact double.

Two or three actors will be required for the play, with at least one to play a body double of the Iraqi leader.

Michael Hyatt, the 65-year-old former RSC director who was one of the most realistic lookalikes, said his friends had told him to audition.

Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein is thought to use doubles himself

He said he was aware of his resemblance, as "about two years ago I saw some holiday snaps of myself lying on a beach like a beached whale, and I said 'I look more like Saddam Hussein every day'.

"But I've just come for a laugh really."

The successful Saddams will be asked back for further auditions once the script for the un-named show is ready.

BBC London's Mike Krauss
"Could the real Saddam have taken the District Line to Hammersmith?"

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