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Callum makes his mark with an appearance in blockbuster movie; Culture Theatre Amateur theatre by John Slim.

Byline: John Slim

Callum McArthur, a member of West Bromwich Operatic Society for just over a year, is to be seen - and heard! - in the new hit movie Atonement. And his film debut is not bad going for somebody who was signed on as just one among about a thousand extras for the Dunkirk beach scenes at the time of the evacuation.

Callum, who is 25, got his chance to be in Atonement after first making friends with Craig Leonard, a militaria specialist with a small memorabilia shop in Kidderminster, who works closely with films, theatre and television. They both became participants in a 1940s war weekend event that included a full-blown battle at the railway station at Highley, on the Severn Valley Railway - after which, they were asked whether they would like to be in an unnamed "military film" that was being shot in Bristol and Redcar.

The evacuation scenes were filmed on Redcar beach, amid what Callum recalls as total pandemonium, with many of the soldier extras waiting in the water for boats because there was no more room on the beach.

Then, after two days, there was a call for people who could sing to report to the entrance to Redcar leisure centre.

"Craig and I decided to say we could sing and next thing we know we've been asked to sing. A production girl asked what kind of singing we did and we said we were members of an operatic society - and she said, 'Fantastic! Come with me'."

Callum became known as the choirmaster and found himself on a bandstand, teaching about 20 people to sing. "Then a chap came over and asked me what my name was. I said it was Callum and he said, 'Your name will be on the credits. How does "choirmaster" suit you'"

He and Craig were in several scenes during a shoot in Redcar that was extended from two days to five. Atonement was released last month and they both attended the premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square - though without any red carpet treatment.

"We were ushered in before anybody else and had to be out of sight before all the stars arrived at the last minute."

But there is more to come. He and Craig are to be involved in the remake of The Dambusters, but it is held up at present for legal reasons. Meanwhile, 2007 has seen him in the WBOS version of The Full Monty and A Chorus Line - and he has been asked to sing the closing song at the Remembrance Day service, either in Birmingham or West Bromwich.

So it has been quite a year - not least, because he has married a girl he met in a brothel. Well, sort of. The brothel was The Red Rat, one of the settings in Jekyll and Hyde, which WBOS presented last year at the Lichfield Garrick. They were required to sit at the same table - and they tied the knot two months ago, on August 27.

Coleshill Operatic Society is looking for new members to take part in Crazy for You next April. This is the show with a score that includes gems like I Got Rhythm and Embraceable You and it is coming to Coleshill as the group prepares to celebrate its centenary.

Rehearsals are held at Coleshill Town Hall on Mondays at 7.30 pm. More details are available from director Jane Aston on 0121 742 1719 or at

Meanwhile, the group is planning a fundraiser in the form of one of the increasingly popular "frog-racing" nights. It will be at the town hall on Saturday, November 17 and the pounds 6 tickets include a fish-and-chip supper. The numbers to call are 0121 744 3335 and 0121 747 2937.

Birmingham School of Acting is promising a pretty profound short autumn season at the Crescent Theatre.

It starts tonight with Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara, running until Saturday in tandem with Macbeth, and follows on from Wednesday to Saturday next week with Woyzeck, by the German dramatist Georg Buchner.

Woyzeck, written in 1836, is the story of a soldier who - it says here - is betrayed by his wife and subjected to inhuman torture and humiliation by his superiors. He descends into madness and bloodshed. I gather that it is told through short splintered scenes, blending dark poetic fairy tale with sharply-observed naturalism and song.

Don't say nobody told you. Buchner died before he finished it. I can't say I'm surprised.

Even while I was pondering last week the way in which communal, inventory and formidable have the accent so frequently placed on their second syllable instead of where it belongs on the first, I knew that there was another word that habitually suffers in similar fashion.

Alas, the task of remembering what it was proved too much for my struggling brain cell - until I found myself watching Gabby Logan and her two male guests discussing sport on her television programme. This was when one of the men said controversy - accentuating the second syllable instead of the first, as is the regrettable norm these days.

The conversation continued and Gabby, more power to her elbow, almost immediately pronounced it correctly - but this whole business of stressing the wrong syllable has reminded me of the most flagrant example I've ever come across. This involved espionage in having its second syllable not only accentuated but mispronounced - the result being a quite remarkable espyonidge.

The culprit was one of my now long-gone schoolmasters and he scarred me for life.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 17, 2007
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