Sailor doll joins Sheringham play cast

Fancy a seven-foot sailor missus? He's definitely tall, has dark hair, and, with that big white-toothed smile and huge blue eyes – you could say he was handsome.

But if Jolly Jack Tar ever happens to advertise his charms in the lonely-hearts columns, just pause a while before you post your reply.

A cosy dinner � deux opposite this date would probably send shivers up your spine for all the wrong reasons.

'He looks desperate – manic – don't leave me alone with him, please!' was the reaction of theatre director Debbie Thompson when Jack arrived yesterday to take a starring role in Sleuth which opens at Sheringham Little Theatre tomorrow.

Not only can the strapping sailor flash a smile to make you tingle, he's also quite a mover.

If you think Jack's looks are a tad creepy, wait 'til you see his shoulders shake, his head rock and his hips rotate – you'll probably be scuttling for the exit with Mrs Thompson.

She's determined to overcome her initial shock-horror reaction and make Jack a welcome guest during his visit, as his appearance is saving the theatre a bob or two.

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Hiring a super-lifesized mechanical doll like Jack would have cost about �500, not including transport charges, according to Mrs Thompson.

But Jack's on free loan from the magical Davenport family for the duration of the production.

North Walsham-based magician Roy Davenport heard that the theatre needed a doll for Sleuth when he was taking part in their fund-raising summer music hall show.

His family, whose entertainment roots extend back several generations, own a magic shop just off The Strand in London, where Jack lives between performances.

'He's been in demand a number of times in the West End – always for Sleuth,' said Mr Davenport. 'He once had Peter Bowles supporting him.'

Jack was made in the 1930s by a mechanical figure-maker called Frank Stewart who gave him to the Davenports when he retired.

'He used to sit in the shop window frightening the sweet bejasus out of passers-by but he's out the back now,' said Mr Davenport.

Jack will be out front again, on the Little Theatre's stage, from October 5-9 during his performance in the Anthony Shaffer psychological thriller when he appears as the prize possession of game-obsessed Andrew Wyke, played by Tim Hudson.

A plan to free two men to marry their mistresses ends in class struggle and murder as toff Andrew tries to prove to Italian hairdresser Milo Tindle (Chris Porter) that you cannot just charm your way into the British upper classes.

The famous 1972 film version featured Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine in the lead roles.

Jack will setting sail for a permanent Norfolk home in 2012 when he'll be joining the exhibits at the magic museum and theatre Mr Davenport plans for North Walsham.

He expects to sign a 125-year lease next month for land at the town's former Crane Fruehauf factory site and hopes to open Davenport's Magic Kingdom there in April 2012.

* Sleuth is showing at 7.30pm each evening with 2.30pm matin�es on October 7 and 9. For more information ring the box office on 01263 822347.