Cumbrian actress bringing her play back home
Last updated at 14:22, Tuesday, 17 April 2012
When Cumbrian-born actress Francesca Waite takes to the stage in a new production of Once in a House on Fire tomorrow, she’ll spot more than a few familiar faces in the audience.
Though now living in Manchester, Francesca was born in Carlisle and her parents are from west Cumbria. She still visits the area regularly.
Relatives run Cueto’s fish and chip shop in Maryport and family live in Aspatria and Egremont.
“It’s always been my ambition to bring one of my plays here for family to see, and I can’t wait for the performance on Wednesday,” says the 32-year-old.
“My mum was born in Maryport, my dad was born in Aspatria, so I have lots of relatives here and it still feels like a second home. I hope they’ll all be coming along, I’ve been bombarding them with flyers!
Once in a House on Fire is showing at The Brewery in Kendal. It’s an adaptation of the award-winning memoir by Andrea Ashworth.
The production, by Monkeywood Theatre (where Francesca is co-artistic director), explores the experiences of four women growing up in a family blighted by poverty and domestic violence in Manchester in the 1980s.
The gritty tale focuses on the attempts of the young sisters to escape their hellish existence through stories, and dreams of being part of a real happy family.
“It’s quite a well-known book and one I’d been aware of for a long time. I read it when I was younger and actually went to the same sixth form college as Andrea Ashworth,” Francesca explains.
“It’s such a strong female story and we realised it would work well on stage. It is a challenge because there are quite a lot of characters and the story spans 13 years. Five people in the cast play more than one part.”
One of those includes Francesca, who plays one of the sisters, the mum and a teenager – parts ranging in age from four to 36. Is it not confusing learning so many roles?
“Once you rehearse it and it’s all in your head it’s fine. Being artistic director means I’m involved with production, press, booking tours, doing auditions and learning my lines so it is really busy.
“But I like being so involved, it gives me a big overview of everything. As the company has grown it has definitely become more and more work but that’s what we always wanted, to get our name known, and we are now getting recognition in the industry.”
Francesca was born in Carlisle. Her father’s job at the Midland Bank meant they moved around, and she lived in Egremont as a toddler, then the family moved to the Isle of Man before settling in Manchester.
It seems she was an aspiring actress from a very early age.
“I did ballet classes with my twin sister Olivia and we used to do shows for our mum and dad and relatives.
“I can remember being taken to a pantomime when I was about three and being in awe of the people I saw on stage. I remember saying to my dad, ‘I want to be an actress’ and as a joke he said ‘get into RADA then’, and I’d tell people that’s what I was going to do! Which probably sounded a bit precocious.
“I loved music, too; we spent so much time in the car driving to see family in Cumbria we would sing songs. A tape of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest hits was on repeat!”
She gave up performing for a time at high school. “It wasn’t very cool and I didn’t want to get picked on so I got into sport instead. Then I chose A-level drama and in sixth form started acting more.”
Her first part was Cobweb in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and since studying drama at University of Northumbria, she has performed in dozens of productions, from Don Quixote to a short film looking into the triggers behind eating disorders.
Now working part time programming children’s shows at The Lowry in Manchester, Francesca’s burning ambition is to bag a TV role.
“It used to be you’d have to go to London to follow that path but TV is getting a lot more regional these days.
“And there’s so much filming happening in Manchester now, in streets around the new BBC headquarters in Salford. We’ve been asking casting directors to come to the show, so we’ll see what happens...”
And her ideal role? Francesca pauses then: “Spooks. No! Downton Abbey! I love a good period drama.”
Once in a House on Fire is at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, tomorrow at 8pm. Tickets £12, call 01539 725133 or visit www.breweryarts.co.uk
First published at 11:24, Tuesday, 17 April 2012
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk