‘Shirley’ – The Last Play by Yorkshire Writer, Andrea Dunbar – Thursday 9 November, 7.30pm
‘Shirley’ – The Last Play by Yorkshire Writer, Andrea Dunbar
Performed at Square Chapel Arts Centre for One Night Only
This is only the third time that ‘Shirley’ has ever been performed on stage
Square Chapel Arts Centre is delighted to be celebrating the life and works of the talented West Yorkshire writer, Andrea Dunbar. On Thursday 9 November at 7.30pm, audiences are invited to see Square Chapel’s stage production of Shirley, written by Andrea Dunbar. This was Dunbar’s third and final piece of writing before her life was cut short in 1990 when she was aged just 29.
Starring actress and Square Chapel patron, Natalie Gavin, Shirley is a snapshot of life in the working-class council houses of Bradford in the 1980s. It’s a short play that highlights the struggles, the relationships and the sometime comical lives of Shirley, her mum, best friend and boyfriends, as they simply exist in their dysfunctional world. This will be only the third time Shirley has ever been performed!
For its debut, the play was staged at The Royal Court Theatre; in 2016 it was performed in Manchester, and this time round it’s being performed at the newly refurbished Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax.
As well as stage and screen actress Natalie Gavin (The Arbor, Hector and Shameless), playing Shirley, audiences might also spot other familiar faces in this play. Manchester based actress Karen Henthorn playing Shirley’s mother, is probably best known for her role as Teresa Bryant in Coronation Street. Henthorn has also appeared in numerous TV series including Homefront, Heartbeat, The Bill, Doctors, Holby City and Casualty to name a few.
Natalie Gavin, who went to school on the same estate as Andrea Dunbar and appeared in the film The Arbor, based on Dunbar’s second piece of writing, said: “Shirley has a real place in my heart, and so does Andrea Dunbar. I’m so lucky to have been cast in The Arbor, a documentary type film that gives people an insight into Andrea’s life and thoughts. I’m also thrilled as patron of Square Chapel Arts Centre and as a fan of Andrea’s work, to be playing the title role (Shirley) in this play.”
Others in the cast include Darren Jeffries (Hollyoaks ) playing John; Stephen Hoyle (Reckless: The Movie) playing Eddie; James Lewis (Scott & Bailey, Heartbeat and Doctors) playing Simon and the policeman; Joe Osborne (Hollyoaks and Peaky Blinders) playing Roy, and Liz Simmons (best known for her stage performances at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Red Ladder Theatre and the Sheffield Crucial Theatre) playing Karen.
The performance of Shirley at Square Chapel on Thursday 9 November is an ensemble production facilitated by Director Julia North, for the Arts Centre in the heart of Halifax.
Julia North trained as an actor at Central School of Speech and Drama, London, and also turned her hand to directing, working on some well-known productions and with renowned creatives in the industry.
North has worked at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, The Half Moon Theatre in London, and she directed Alan Ayckbourn’s Ten Times Table at Arden Theatre. She also worked at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts where she directed Stags and Hens by playwright Willy Russell. North has also worked with the likes of Mike Leigh (the English writer and director of film and theatre) and Chris Bond (the British playwright known for his re-telling of Sweeney Todd).
Director, Julia North said: “Andrea’s writing is stark truth unadorned and our staging of it will reflect that.”
Andrea Dunbar, born in Bradford in 1961, was one of eight children and grew up on the Buttershaw estate. At the age of 15 she wrote a play about it called The Arbor for her English CSE. Dunbar left school at 16, had three children by three different men, and ended up in a refuge for battered women. It was here where she met a friend who had links in the theatre industry and helped get Dunbar’s work to an audience. The script for The Arbor was passed on to Max Stafford-Clark, who at the time was artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre. He decided to put it on for audiences to come and see.
It was a success, and so the Royal Court asked Dunbar to write another play. She obliged, writing Rita, Sue and Bob Too. This was an even bigger hit which was also adapted for the big screen, directed by Alan Clarke and starring actor George Costigan as the character Bob alongside Siobhan Finneran and Michelle Holmes who played Rita and Sue.
Dunbar wrote another play for the Royal Court, Shirley. This would be her final piece of writing before she died of a brain haemorrhage at the young age of 29.
Star of the 1987 cult classic film Rita, Sue and Bob Too and Square Chapel patron, George Costigan said: “Like Buddy Holly and Joe Orton or any other creative writer cut down by fate there’s a deep sadness when their last work is their best. That, in my humble opinion, is certainly the case here.”
For more information and to book to see Andrea Dunbar’s ‘Shirley’ on Thursday 9 November at 7.30pm, visit squarechapel.co.uk or call the Square Chapel Box Office on
01422 349 422. Tickets are priced at £10.
For more information, images and press interviews, please contact Sofia Cann, Marketing and Communications Manager, Tel 01422 353073 firstname.lastname@example.org
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