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Past/Present/Future for...Sarah McDonald Hughes

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Sarah McDonald Hughes is an actress/writer whose career is on the rise. She has starred in Channel 4's hit soap opera Hollyoaks, but it is her theatre career that has got local critics raving. Her stage credits include A Taste Of Honey and Closer and last year she wrote and starred in A Song For Lovers which received excellent reviews. She has two more productions in the pipeline: Northface's Be My Baby at the Bury Met (11 June) and the RNCM (18-20 June) and Maine Road at the 24/7 Festival which runs from 20-26 July.

PAST: I suppose I’ve been performing since being quite little really - I was in local drama groups from a young age and loved performing and telling stories.  I had some really great drama teachers at school who encouraged me to pursue it so after my A levels I did a degree in Drama and then got an agent and started getting bits and pieces of work.

It’s really difficult to choose a favourite role – I suppose I hope the best is yet to come!  I’m lucky enough to have done a range of different work – touring theatre, telly, and radio, and the variety’s nice. I loved playing Jo in A Taste of Honey, which was another Northface production in 2005.  I have to say I am absolutely loving playing Mary in Be My Baby – she’s fantastically written, really complex and truthful, and facing a compelling dilemma.

Hopefully the real highs are to come! Having my play, A Song for the Lovers produced at the Lowry was brilliant. I’ve also recently found out that my new play, Maine Road, has been shortlisted for the BBC’s Alfred Bradley Award, which I can’t quite believe! 

PRESENT:  Be My Baby is set in 1964 in a home for unmarried mothers – a place where single pregnant women were sent to give birth to their babies in secret, so they could later return to their families without bringing with them the terrible shame of having a baby outside of marriage.  The play follows four young women who have their babies and are forced to give them up for adoption.

The writing is absolutely fantastic – the way Amanda Whittington tells each girl’s story and taps into the very real issue of shame and honour which were so important in the 60’s is incredible. The writing is extremely economical and truthful, and manages to capture the hope and humour these young women retain, despite their situation. Also I jumped at the chance to work with Jason Hudson and Northface again.

It was brilliant working in a cast of 6 women, on a play that has at its heart a very female experience, and I think because of the subject matter and the deeply moving nature of the play, we have become very close very quickly. The stories we’re dealing with in the play are so important and so emotionally hard-going that we quickly developed a really supportive atmosphere in the rehearsal room which helped us to be brave and try things out.

I’m actually going to be working with one of the other actors, Marie Critchley, again very soon, as we’re going straight from playing mother/daughter in Be My Baby to playing mother/daughter in Maine Road!  I’m really excited to be working with Marie again so soon.

FUTURE: As soon as Be My Baby finishes I’m straight into rehearsals for Maine Road with Monkeywood, which is on at Pure in the Printworks as part of this year’s 24:7 festival. We’ve got a brilliant cast and crew in place and I can’t wait to get working on it.

Maine Road is about a boy who’s losing everything, really, who’s coping with change for the first time. It’s set in 2003 when Man City left their stadium at Maine Road in Moss Side for their new ground, which was a really emotional time for the fans and the area. 

I wrote the play because I’m really interested in ‘place’ as a central theme, and the idea that places can have real meaning and impact on people’s lives. Leo’s struggling because all of the places where he feels safe are being taken from him. I live near what was the Maine Road stadium in Moss Side and it’s amazing how much of a legacy of the ground and the football club is still there. 

I’m quite superstitious (a legacy from my own grandmother!) about talking about things too soon in case they don’t come off, but I’ve got a few acting projects lined up to keep me going later in the year.We also hope to tour Maine Road following its 24:7 outing and have plans for a brand new Monkeywood project in early 2010. So lots to be getting on with!

-Sarah McDonald Hughes was speaking to Glenn Meads

Be My Baby
is at the Bury Met on 11 June and the RNCM from 18-20 June.


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