Famed for her role as Angie Freeman in Coronation Street, Deborah McAndrew has reinvented herself as a playwright.
Her First World War play ‘An August Bank Holiday Lark’ by Northern Broadsides opens at The Dukes Theatre in Lancaster tonight (Tuesday, March 4). Deborah spoke to The Visitor about the play, her career change and her memories of working on those famous TV cobbles.
Q- Where did the play come from?
A- Barrie Rutter, Northern Broadsides’ artistic director, wanted a play called An August Bank Holiday Lark. It was a title that had been with him for a long time and he simply gave me the title, taken from the Larkin poem, and the context was that he wanted a play set around the first world war, in 1914, and he wanted folk dancing.
Q - How do you even start?
A - I went away did my research and it came together really well. When I started looking at it I found out about Wakes Week, which happened around the August Bank Holiday. Around the turn of the century it was the start of working class leisure time and people started going off for the week to places like Blackpool, but before that people would stay in their villages and fetes and markets would come to town for the week.But then there is the story of the tradition of morris and clog dancing that died because there were whole troupes of dancers who went to war and never came back. I set the play in a town in the North halfway up a hill and when the war comes along a number of young men have to go.
Q- So what do you hope from the play?
A-I hope it’s powerful and the audience at the read through gave that response, they were quite moved. I don’t want something that says it’s all grim up North then everyone went to war and they died. There’s something very joyful as well about the people and the women in particular. They keep going. It’s not just relentlessly awful and I hope there’s some good jokes in there and a warmth and humanity.
Q-Tell me about turning to writing after a very successful acting career.
A- I always wrote and when my daughter was born in 2001 I started turning down acting work and filled the gap with writing.
Q-How does it feel to be a full time writer?
A- You do pinch yourself a little bit. I do make a living as a writer really. When I did my first play 10 years ago it was nerve wracking and terrible, I feel much more centred about it now. Over the last decade I have built up a professional approach to writing plays.
Q- I have to ask about Corrie.
A- Corrie is part of my life really. It continues to be that. When I was setting up a theatre company recently, there was a great advantage to still having that profile, people are interested in it. It never leaves you. It’s partly because I was in it in the early 90s when the audience was before the digital age and it had massive audiences. There were 15, 20 million watching. It was a bit of a golden time with Curly, Raquel, Reg Holdsworth, the Duckworths were in their prime, Bet and Alec were behind the bar. It was a terrific cast. People still remember me and still say hello.
TICKETS for An August Bank Holiday Lark, which runs until Saturday (March8) are available from 01524 598500.