Wyllie Longmore On…The Killing Of Sister George

The word versatile is often overused, but it can be applied to the multi-talented Wyllie Longmore; actor, teacher and director. He has starred on screen in the hit movie, Love Actually and numerous TV shows including Casualty and Cold Feet. He is also often seen treading the boards at the beloved Octagon Theatre in the likes of The Merchant Of Venice and Meet The Mukherjees. He is about to direct a revival of The Killing Of Sister George at the Lowry Studio which opens next week.

What attracted to the play?
I was due to do something else with two of the actors from this production, but the project fell through and The Killing of Sister George popped into my head as a replacement. The play is going through a renaissance, largely because the issues are as relevant to us today as they were in the 60s when the play was first staged. And it offers four wonderful roles for women.

Many people remember the film version with Beryl Reid and Susannah York. How does the stage version differ?
The relationships between the three women are very delicately handled in the play – the action largely driven by the characters and their emotional connections with each other.  In the film everything is spelled out, which not only coarsens the action generally, but leads to some scenes of grossness.

The play deals with the topic of homosexuality. How much do you think attitudes have changed since the play was written?
A lot has changed; very little is hidden nowadays.  With regard to same-sex relationships, in many ways I think we are also more open and tolerant of other people’s need for love and companionship.
What are the main challenges that you have faced staging the project?
This is a West End play: complicated set, with masses of furniture and props. We’re trying to do it on the relatively tiny stage of the Lowry Studio, with as simple a setting as we can afford on very little money. Also, we have a young cast trying to play women much older than themselves. Instead of trying to play age, we have been concentrating on the truthfulness of the characterisations and allowing the emotional drive of the play to have full expression.

Manchester has a thriving theatre scene. What keeps you coming back to the city to work, rather than leave for London?
I came here in 1977 to take up a teaching post at Manchester University. When I became an actor full time some seven years later, I felt no urge to leave the city and return to London.  I’ve enjoyed working all over the country, but I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Wyllie Longmore was speaking to Glenn Meads.

The Killing Of Sister George runs at the Lowry from 24 – 26 September. For more information, click here.