A TEENAGER born with half a heart who was only given a 50 per cent chance of survival at birth is getting ready to star in a theatre show.

Talking to animals is difficult, but Charlie Turner – who will star as Doctor Dolittle in a production coming to Newport city centre – is no stranger to challenges, having been diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome before birth.

This complex, incurable cardiac defect means that Charlie, from Newport, only has half a heart, with him undergoing major open-heart surgery when he was just two days old.

South Wales Argus:

Charlie Undergoing treatment in hospital as a baby (Picture: Alison Turner)

He was given a 50:50 chance of surviving long enough to start school but, following two more open-heart operations, he beat the odds.

Charlie, now aged 15, has been a member of Sharon Higgins Academy of Dance and Musical Theatre for six years and has a positive outlook on life.

"My heart has given me more opportunities than it has taken away," said Charlie.

"I can’t do contact sports because of my medication and pacemaker, but this means I’ve focused elsewhere – on art, music and the theatre.

"I joined Sharon’s Academy when I was nine, and the first time I was out there on the stage, I just felt like I’d come home.

"My first big role was Pugsley in the Addams Family, and the best thing was, nobody in the audience had a clue that the boy they were watching on stage was missing half of his heart.

"They didn’t applaud because they felt sorry for me, they applauded because I’d done a good job."

South Wales Argus:

The cast of Dr Dolittle Jr (Picture: Andy Howells)

Since his theatrical debut, Charlie has performed in various shows, but this will be his first titular role.

"It’s been brilliant," added Charlie.

"I’ve got more lines than I’ve ever had before, and I’ve really enjoyed learning all my songs, especially Talk To The Animals!"


TV presenter Phillip Schofield, who played the same role in the West End, has wished Charlie and the cast good luck on Twitter, although his history with Charlie goes way back.

"I met Phillip when I was 18 months old, when my family and I appeared on This Morning to talk about my heart condition," said Charlie.

"I don’t remember much about it, but I’m told I spent most of my time destroying the set!

"It’s so special to be playing the same role as Phillip now, and even nicer to receive a good luck message from him. I just hope I can make as good a job of Dolittle as he did!"

Dr Dolittle Jr, by Sharon Higgins Musical Theatre, will be at Newport’s Dolman Theatre from May 31 until June 1. Performances are at 7.15pm each evening, with tickets from dolmantheatre.co.uk