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Monday, 18 November 2019

Corrie's Ali Briggs in multi-award winning play 'My Mother Said I Never Should'

Last seen leaving Weatherfield for a new life in Scotland with Norris and her Aunt Emily, Freda Burgess actress Ali Briggs has arrived in Sheffield, joining the cast of 'My Mother Said I Never Should' at the world-famous, Crucible Theatre.

Playing Emily Bishop's niece between 2005 - 2019, actress Ali Briggs is also a disability rights campaigner and activist. The character of Freda Burgess was the brainchild of Corrie's long-time writer Debbie Oates  and Ali was recognised with a Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR) People of The Year award for "best portrayal of the lives and viewpoints of disabled people on television (thanks Corriepedia for this info)

(c) Mark Douet / Sheffield Theatres
Multi-award-winning ‘My Mother Said I Never Should' by Charlotte Keatley, is the most performed play ever written by a woman, translated or produced in 32 countries- and first performed at Contact, Manchester in 1987. The play is described as 'A moving and funny exploration of the lives of four generations of women in one family. Shifting back and forth in time, we see their loves, expectations and choices play out against the huge social changes of the past century'.

Sheffield Theatres and Fingersmiths production, this contemporary classic features a cast of d/Deaf* and hearing actors, in a visual, physical storytelling style that captures the power of a timeless story which shows it’s never too late to change.

The Company of 'My Mother Said I Never Should' (c) Mark Douet 2019 
Alongside Corrie's Ali Briggs (Doris) the cast also includes Jude Mahon (Margaret), EJ Raymond (Jackie), and Lisa Kelly (Rosie)

It's also worth mentioning that 'My Mother Said I Never Should' was revived for the West End in 2016, starring current Corrie legend Maureen Lipman (Evelyn Plummer)   

Maureen Lipman, on stage in 'My Mother Said I Never Should' at St James Theatre, London, 2016 
Coronation Blog mid-week reviewer (and our d/deaf* representative) Ryan Oxley talked to writer Charlotte Keatley about this new production; 

Playwrite Charlotte Keatley, picture by (c)Mark Douet 

Ryan: What's different about doing the play in BSL?

Charlotte: Lots! It's more heartbreaking in some scenes because this is a play about families and how they communicate or don't -which we all know- those moments when we want our Mum to say yes I love you, yes I'm proud of you. Here, because we have a mixture of deaf and speaking or signing actors, it makes it harder for the generations to communicate. And it makes the play show the extra challenges for deaf women, bringing up children or holding a job.

The company of My Mother Said I Never Should
© Mark Douet

Ryan How did you adapt the script into BSL?

Charlotte:  Most of the play's lines are exactly the same in meaning, (and in the captions or voiceover) but obviously BSL doesn't use words the same way which I find fascinating. Sometimes BSL is quicker or funnier, and BSL is so visual that someone like me who hasn't learned it (yet !) can guess quite a lot of the meaning. That's because these actors, like all BSL speakers, are so skilled at using body language, face, timing -all the visual things which add humour, irony, sadness or drama to what they're saying. It's been great working with them. I think BSL is a truly theatrical language- after all,  we go to the theatre to watch the actors' whole body and images as much as the words.

Ryan: Give me an example of the humour?

Charlotte: There are scenes in the play where we see the characters as children- my idea is to show how the daring and alertness we have as children can get crushed and lost in the adults. Our actors -Ali, Jude, EJ and Lisa- dive into being children with such fierce mischief, they are physically brave & adventurous as children are. They make these scenes funnier and more daring than I've ever seen them act. 

Ryan: Did you attend rehearsals?

Charlotte: Yes I was there most of the time because I collaborated with Jeni Draper the director on many decisions. This for me has been an experience of learning so much more about theatre storytelling, and about how we can make theatre which includes deaf experience. Also, Jeni is such a generous and warm person, she makes the rehearsal room a very creative place to be in. I spend years on my own writing in a room which gets lonely, so I love rehearsals.

 (c) Mark Douet 

And as we rehearsed, Jeni and I sometimes cut some lines and did them in visual storytelling instead. Or there were practical things to solve: for example a telephone call scene in the 1970s. Jeni has added a neighbour's child coming to help interpret for the deaf mother, otherwise, she wouldn't be able to have a conversation with her daughter.

So this production shows the deaf experience in a mainstream theatre in a way that's never been done before-  it's been very exciting and humbling to see my play become this. Sheffield Crucible is so committed, they wanted to make this landmark in British Theatre.

Ryan: How has it gone down with audiences?

Charlotte: Audiences love it and the reviews have been great- one reviewer said it was the best thing he'd ever seen at the Crucible Studio.

MMSINS tours the UK in Feb & March 2020 and is on at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre until 23rd of November 2019. More info on that HERE

Thanks to Charlotte Keatley for this exclusive Coronation Street Blog interview. 

You can follow Corrie connoisseur @rybazoxo over on twitter 

* D/deaf is used throughout higher education and research to describe students who are Deaf (sign language users) and deaf (who are hard of hearing but who have English as their first language and may lipread and/or use hearing aids). They will use a lower-case "d" when speaking solely about the hearing loss. Some simply use "d/Deaf."

All original work on Coronation Street Blog is covered by a Creative Commons License

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