HE'S the Hampshire actor going down a storm in the West End.

Three times Olivier Award nominated Ian Bartholomew has spent 35 years working extensively in theatre, television, radio and film, working with everyone from Imelda Staunton to Daniel Day Lewis and from Kevin Spacey to Anthony Hopkins.

His impressive CV ranges from Mrs Henderson Presents and Shakespeare in Love to Radio Times and Into The Woods.

Born and bred in Gosport, Ian is currently receiving rave reviews as eccentric playwright Chitterlow in Half A Sixpence at the Noël Coward Theatre.

Booking for the Cameron Mackintosh and Chichester Festival Theatre production has now been extended for a second time to September.

"I love playing Chitterlow," the 62-year-old tells me.

"I had long chats with the director Rachel Kavanaugh and said I feel he should be more like Ken Campbell (the late actor, writer and director known for his eccentricity and experimental theatre).

"My Chitterlow is bonkers. He's very passionate and a real force of nature who can do anything. I don't do an impression of him, but use his spirit, energy and eccentricity. Hopefully it works."

This new stage version of Half A Sixpence is the musical adaptation of H.G. Wells’s semi-autobiographical novel Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul, is a completely fresh adaptation which reunites book-writer Julian Fellowes (Oscar-winning screenwriter and creator of Downton Abbey) with George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, the musical team that co-creator Cameron Mackintosh first put together to create the hit stage adaptation of Mary Poppins with Disney.

Arthur Kipps, an orphan and over-worked draper’s assistant at the turn of the last century, unexpectedly inherits a fortune that propels him into high society. His childhood companion, Ann Pornick, watches with dismay as Arthur is made over in a new image by the beautiful and classy Helen Walsingham. Both young women undoubtedly love Arthur – but which of them should he listen to? With the help of his friends, Arthur learns that if you want to have the chance of living the right life, you need to make the right choices.

The entire Chichester cast has transferred to the West End production and the show is receiving huge critical and audience acclaim.

A former Brune Park schoolboy, Ian was a regular on stage at Thorngate Halls during his childhood. He also sang in the choir at St Mary's, Alverstoke and performed regularly across Hampshire.

One of his first parts was in the Benjamin Britten opera The Little Sweep as a teenager and he went on to study at the Guildford School of Acting.

"I decided what I wanted to do when I was 14 or 15. I was very fortunate to know what I wanted to do, to get the chance to do it and to be still doing it now.

"I just thought if I can sing, dance and act at the same time, it opens me up to a bigger variety of work."

He's made a hugely successful career of it.