Actress Roberta Kerr, who plays both the wife and mother of film director Alfred Hitchcock on stage, had only seen a couple of his movies before she took the role.
Roberta, a familiar face on TV from roles in Coronation Street and Emmerdale, said: “I wasn’t a Hitchcock fan. I’d only seen The Birds and Psycho. I thought, is the play only going to be of interest to people interested in the movies?
“Actually you can get a lot out of it on different levels. If you do know a bit you’ll get some of the references and if you’re a complete devotee you’ll get more.”
She is fascinated by Hitchcock’s relationships with the women in his life. His wife Alma Reville was his long-term collaborator throughout his career. She taught him a lot when they first met at Gainsborough Studios.
“It’s a relationship that was of soulmates,” Roberta said. “They had so much in common. Alma had a film career ahead of Alfred. It’s a strange thing that she was prepared to take a back seat for love of the man. An award acceptance speech he made speaks volumes in itself.”
Hitchcock said: “I beg permission to mention by name four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation and encouragement, and constant collaboration.
“The first of the four is a film editor, the second is a scriptwriter, the third is the mother of my daughter Pat and the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen. And their names are Alma Reville.”
Roberta also plays Hitchcock’s mother, Emma. She said: “Emma had three children and Alfred was the youngest by some years, so he was almost an only child.
“He was a boy with a widowed mother and at the end of every school day he was required to go and tell her about his day. He called it confession.”
Roberta said that Martin Miller had done a “fantastic job” of creating the role of Hitchcock. He is a big fan of the director and borrowing his box sets of films helped her to get up to speed.
The actress says that she was thrilled to return to Coronation Street last year, 23 years after she was in the show, playing Wendy Crozier. Her affair with Ken Barlow caused his divorce from Deirdre and the pair had an awkward accidental reunion last summer.
Roberta said she “absolutely loved” being on the show and returning but that was the end now for Wendy.
She also worked for four years on Emmerdale, playing Jan Glover, and has also been in Brookside, EastEnders and The Archers.
She is looking forward to visiting the area to catch up with family in Sheffield and the Peak District. Her cousin Sarah Mount lives in Edale and another, Tim Eldridge, is the headteacher at Newfield School in Sheffield.
Roberta said: “The Peak District is absolutely fabulous. I’ve got lots of childhood memories of visiting.”
The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock, written by David Rudkin and directed by Jack McNamara, is at Bishop Pursglove School in Tideswell tonight, Thursday. Box office: 01298 871063. It also goes to CAST in Doncaster on Saturday, November 2 and the Pomegranate in Chesterfield the following night. Doncaster box office: call 01302 303 959 or go to castindoncaster.com. Chesterfield box office: call 01246 345222 or visit www.chesterfieldvenues.co.uk