Women bringing Curtain Up! On Saddleworth Players’ new season

ICE BATHS, a golden anniversary, a reunion of old friends and sisterhood make a heady mix of anticipation as it is Curtain Up! for Saddleworth Players’ new season.

An all-female cast takes to the stage in the theatre at Delph’s Millgate Arts Centre for the first of the program of productions that take in the day the venue turns 50-years-old.

Among the five stars telling the story of how a group of women inherit shares in a dilapidated old theatre and get involved in all kinds of chaos and madness to try to save it from destruction, are new faces – and some more familiar behind the scenes.

And as opening night – Saturday, September 30 – approaches, there are plenty of tales already.

Siobhan Ebden, who plays Pam, normally makes sure all the props are in place but this time she is taking centre stage, after some unconventional ways of learning her lines.

Siobhan Ebden

She said: “It’s a much bigger part than I’ve ever had before.

“One of the members of the gym I go to is a sports therapist who has an ice bath and sauna facility in his garage in Lees.

“Cold water therapy, made famous by Wim Hof, is very good for your joints, organ s and reducing inflammation.

“You spend 15 minutes in the sauna then five in the ice bath. I did that three times but the ice bath is freezing, so I was reciting my lines to distract my friend and I from the cold!

“It worked, we managed the limit of five minutes and I remembered my lines, of which there are a lot!”

An absolute newcomer is Pauline Holt, who plays Betty, but it has reunited her with a pal, director Mike Lawlor.

Pauline Holt

She said: “I hadn’t seen Michael for about 30 years. My daughter was in Lydgate Music and Drama Society and he did all the pantos.

“In the middle of the audition, he said, ‘Do I know you?’ Then I realised how it is.

“I’ve watched for a few years and helped behind the bar but this is the first proper play I’ve ever been in.

“I was at home and got an email from Verity Mann at the Millgate saying how they wanted new blood and new members to do all sorts – front of house, bar, everything.

“Then it said about auditioning but I’d always been too nervous to do it. However, Kenneth Alan Taylor said, ‘Pauline, you only live once.’

“Now I’m in it, I love it and I’ll volunteer for more off-stage things, like front of house, now. All five of us get on and the production is really funny.”

Ticket sales for the first production of the season have astounded Millgate staff as they are a record for this stage.

Some of the cast of Curtain Up

Suzanne Hudson, who has appeared at Oldham’s Lyceum before, plays Jackie, when she was originally not meant to be at Millgate until, the next production Alice.

“I saw the audition and thought, ‘This is way more my acting style,’” she said. “It’s way more up my street.”

Antonia Kinlan, who has the role of Sharon, is another switching from one part of Millgate’s theatre to the other.

She added: “Verity Mann’s my sister, so we’ve been watching shows for a long time.

“I’ve not acted for a number of years and I always said that when my children are old enough, I’ll come back.

“Verity rang and said, ‘Would you like to audition and get your hand back in?’ And here I am. It’s a bit like riding a bike.

Suzanne Hudson

“It’s been a really nice way of getting back into it and none of us had worked with each other before and we’re all bouncing off each other.”

Finally, Helen Rose has the role of Theresa and she cannot wait to get started.

She said: “I did a play with Saddleworth Players a couple of years ago but it was a completely different type.

“This has been really fun to do. Doing it with an all-female cast has added to that and it’s a really funny play.

“Once we got our teeth into it, we found all the jokes.”

With five women taking the lead, director Mike’s task may be described by some as thankless – but a comment he found while researching the production is driving him on.

He told Saddleworth Independent: “A critic watched it and said, ‘Who said women couldn’t be funny?’

“I thought that was quite insulting really, particularly as a number of our best comedy writers are female.

“But if there is such a thing as women being funny, here they are.

“It’s going absolutely stupendously – I’ve only aged 10 years in the last two weeks!

“Seriously, though, it’s going very well and it’s quite an honour to direct the first production of the season that takes in the 50th anniversary.

“And there was a lot of buzz around the place when last season finished.

“Dealing with five females in the cast is like herding sheep sometimes but they’re fantastic, they’ve been an absolute joy and made the job easy.

“I can’t wait for the curtain up!”

Curtain Up! runs at the theatre at Delph’s Millgate Arts Centre from Saturday, September 30 until Saturday, October 7, with performances starting at 7.30pm.

Tickets are priced at £12 for adults and £6 for under-18s. They can be bought by clicking: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/millgateartscentre/e-yxbvbv.

 

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