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Cast: Soap Actors and Veteran Wilcox in Canary

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Liverpool-born writer Jonathan Harvey’s new play Canary has been cast with former Coronation Street actors amongst the ensemble.

The soap opera's long-term script writer makes a return to the theatre where he wrote his first play, which follows news that he has written a new stage version of Corrie to celebrate its 50th anniversary (See News, 5 Mar 2010).

Harvey, also known as a script writer for television show Gimme Gimme Gimme and his play-turned-film Beautiful Thing - which received an Olivier Award nomination and the John Whiting Award - is having Canary premiered at the Liverpool Playhouse in April.

Since Harvey’s play The Cherry Blossom Tree appeared at the Liverpool Playhouse studio in 1987, he’s maintained a close affinity to the Northwest from his London base and worked with the Everyman & Playhouse’s artistic director Gemma Bodinetz with his plays Guiding Star and Closer To Heaven. His new play Canary is a hard-hitting tale set in Liverpool and London across five decades, which aims to provoke thought about the changing backdrop of modern Britain from the 1960s to present day, in particular the changing attitudes towards homosexuality.

Ex-Coronation Street actor Philip McGinley, who played Tom Kerrigan in the long-running ITV soap, will play the part of Young Tom, while Manchester-born actress Paula Wilcox has been cast as the character Ellie.

Although she’s recently been seen treading the boards as Shirley in Stella Feehily's Dreams of Violence for Out of Joint, many will remember sixty-year-old Wilcox’s early TV roles in ITV’s Man About The House.

However, a fair amount of interest has been shown in who will play the role of the homosexual character Tom. A tabloid newspaper reported last Thursday that former EastEnders actor Charlie Clements, whose character Bradley Branning was killed off in the Walford-based soap last month, had been auditioning and hoped to the land the part of either Tom or Billy.

Harvey, as well as the Everyman & Playhouse and McGinley, were all alerted by the story that they all tweeted on their Twitter pages about the ‘insider’ and their report. On Friday last week, McGinley tweeted: “This story amused me greatly yesterday as I already know who's 'landed' both 'the edgy new parts' (Me & another chap).”

The “other chap” McGinley is referring to is Kevin Trainor, who put in a brilliant performance last May as autistic character Jonesy in Laurence Wilson’s Lost Monsters. He has been cast to play the part of Billy.

Playing the part of the older Tom in Canary is Philip Voss, and Les Dennis’ niece Jodie McNee makes a return to the city, cast as Melanie in the play, following an appearance with her uncle in When We Are Married at the Liverpool Playhouse in spring last year.

Sean Gallagher also returns to the Playhouse for Harvey’s new play in the role ofthe older Russell. He last appeared at the theatre in The National Theatre’s and Tara Arts’ touring co-production of Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album. Gallagher will also be familiar to some as Paul Connor in Corrie and he also played the part of Chip in the second series of BBC’s Doctor Who, alongside David Tennant.

Having directed both the original stage and film versions of Beautiful Thing, Hettie Macdonald is again collaborating with Harvey on directing duties.

Canary is a co-production between the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, English Touring Theatre and Hampstead Theatre and contains scenes of a sexual nature as well as strong language. There is a restriction on who can see the performances as those under the age of 16 will be refused entry into the auditorium.

The play opens at the Liverpool Playhouse on Friday 23 April and runs until Saturday 15 May.

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