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Brief Encounter With … Marie Critchley

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Marie Critchley has delivered some truly heartfelt performances in plays such as Beautiful Thing, Brassed Off and Maine Road. She returns to the region this month and March when she revists her roles in both the 24/7 play based around the former Man City Ground and the emotional drama Be My Baby which is produced by Northface (of which Marie is a co-founder).  We caught up with her to find out more about these gritty productions.

Tell us a bit about Be My Baby.
It’s set in 1964 and  follows  the story of  Mary Adams who at 19  falls pregnant and enters a Mother and Baby home for unmarried mothers where she meets three other girls in the same situation.

Even though the piece is poignant, is there anything uplifting for an audience with the January blues? 
Although it’s a very moving piece Amanda Whittington combines the emotion with some great  comic moments-particularly in the scenes with the girls. She manage to capture their naivity but also their amazing spirit and resilience.
You are a co-founder of Northface who showcase local talent. Can you tell us more about the remit of the company?
Jason Hudson (co founder and director) and myself felt there was so much talent here in the North West  that deserved to be seen but also so much new writing that sometimes is not seen outside of London from places such as The Bush and The  Royal Court. We really wanted to tap into this and many of the actors we used are doing really well. Sarah McDonald Hughes who plays Mary in this play was in one of our first productions A Taste Of Honey and  is now a successful writer as was David Judge who has performed at The Royal Exchange and is about to tour with Three Sisters with The Lyric Hammersmith. We also piloted this year our first Young Company production of Our Country’s Good. We have created  a company made up of untrained  local actors aged 16-25 who wanted the experience of working within a professional environment and performed the play with great success at The Royal Northern  College of Music. This is something we hope to do again next year.
Later in the year, you are returning to the well received 24/7 production Maine Road. How was it first time round and are you looking forward to revisiting the role of Elaine? 
It was an interesting experience first time round as I had never taken part in 24/7 but I loved being part of that festival and working with Monkeywood . I’m looking forward to trying it all again at The Lowry in March!
You seem to love taking on roles in gritty productions like Beautiful Thing and Maine Road, what draws you to plays like this?
They are stories I can relate to and, hopefully, perform truthfully.
Talking of Beautiful Thing, Sandra is such a pivotal part of Jonathan Harvey's wonderful play. How did you find playing her in Pilot/Octagon's production a few years ago?
It was hard work and a challenge but thoroughly enjoyable!
You are a key player in Manchester's theatre scene and many see the Northwest as thriving in this field. What do you like about Manchester's theatre scene as a performer?
Having lived for 12 years in London as an actor I like the camaraderie working here in the North. We all seem to get to know each other and there’s great support around. My favourite place to work has been Oldham Coliseum where I performed in Can’t Pay Won’t Pay and Brassed Off. Kevin Shaw and the staff  there do a great job in making that theatre a real part of the community as well as producing great work.
What makes both Be My Baby and Maine Road stand out for an audience?
They are both great stories that are moving and truthful. When both of these plays were  first performed  several people e mailed us or gave us feedback saying they felt  that we had told their story. If I can keep doing that as an actor I will be happy.

Finally, what are your future plans for the rest of the year?
For the rest of the year I will be back at The Lowry with Maine Rd in March and  have filmed Kay Mellor’s A Passionate Woman  for the BBC which will be out  later this year. Monkeywood and Northface will, hopefully, be collaborating on a new project for 2011 and Northface will also be undertaking their second Young Company production following on from the success of Our Country’s Good at The Royal Northern College of Music in November.

Marie Critchley was speaking to Glenn Meads

Be By Baby is at the Lowry from 8 - 10 January and Maine Road is at the same venue from 18 - 20 March.


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