Best friends dance their way into star West End roles

STARS Courtney Layton, left and Talia Duff, at the Portchester Community School dance studio.  Picture: Paul Jacobs (120742-12)
STARS Courtney Layton, left and Talia Duff, at the Portchester Community School dance studio. Picture: Paul Jacobs (120742-12)
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BEST friends Courtney Layton and Talia Duff love spending time with each other.

And now they’ll get to work together in London after they both passed auditions to get places in a top West End show.

The pair beat hundreds of girls from across the country to play ballet dancers in the West End production of Billy Elliot.

Courtney and Talia will appear in the show until November.

Courtney, 13, applied for one of just six spaces after seeing an advert placed online.

And she told Talia, 10, about the auditions so she could have a go too.

The girls went through several rounds of gruelling auditions in London, ending with a three-and-a-half hour tap routine.

The girls didn’t think they had much of a chance, but last week they got the call to say that both of them had won a part.

Both girls will be familiar to thousands of theatregoers in the Portsmouth area as they shared the title role in the Portsmouth Players’ recent production of Annie.

And they have taken part in the Ferneham Hall pantomime for the past four years.

Courtney, who lives in Portchester, had to turn down a month-long stint as a flower girl in Oliver! at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton to take the part.

She said: ‘I can’t believe it’s happening because it’s all I’ve ever wanted.

‘They were really hard auditions because it was constant dancing, but I really wanted it.’

As a toddler Courtney was diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome, which meant she struggled to walk and use her muscles properly.

Her mum, Stacey, can’t believe she’s come so far.

She said: ‘It’s a dream come true for Courtney. Until I see her on that stage I just can’t believe it.

‘With only six spaces, for two best friends to get it together is amazing.’

The girls, who both start rehearsals next month, are due to perform two or three times a week from May until November.

It means sometimes leaving school at lunchtime.

Talia, who lives in Cosham, said: ‘Since I was little I said I wanted to be in the West End, and now I’m there.

‘I will still concentrate on school work, as we will have to do it on the train, but doing both will be fine.’