It’s not often that you get to ask a famous playwright to write a play that is appearng on the city’s prestigious Crucible stage, but it was all in a day’s work for Maureen Barry.
Maureen, who is head of the screen and stage department at Hallam University, was contacted by one of the organisers of Sheffield’s stainless steel centenary celebrations. She said: “I was appoached about the department collaborating on something. I contacted John Godber, who is a visiting professor for us. I asked if we could commission him to write a play as part of the centenary celebrations.
“He said he would be delighted to do that and now the play will have its world premiere this month.”
The play is called Jack Steele and Family. Maureen explained: “It celebrates a family in Sheffield during all the changes in the industry between past and present.
“Jack is a person who was involved in the past and it looks at his values and ideas. It also looks at his sons and what happened to them.
“It’s a celebration of steel in Sheffield but seen through the eyes of a steel family. their ups and downs, with the drama around that.”
The play has been created as a collaboration between the university and Sheffield Theatres.
John Godber is one of Britain’s leading living playwrights and has had numerous stage hits with Bouncers, Up’n’Under, Happy Jack, Salt of the Earth and Shakers. Most of his plays look at the lives of ordinary people, often combining comedy and tragedy.
The cast stars well-known Sheffield-born actor Ian Reddington, who has been a regular in both Coronation Street and EastEnders, Wombwell-born Finetime Fontayne, who has also appeared on the Street, and Casualty star Sue Cookson, who lives in Sheffield.
It is being directed by Neil Sissons, who spent 25 years as artistic director of Compass Theatre Company and is now a senior lecturer in performance at Sheffield Hallam.
The play’s music and soundscape has been written by Luke Scott, who was the lead guitarist in city band Babybird, and is now a principal lecturer in music in Maureen’s department.
The university’s students will take on some supporting roles behind the scenes and some performance students have small roles in the play itself.
Maureen said that her role was to bring people together on the project, becoming the play’s producer. The project was a first for the stage and screen department, which was only established six years ago.
The department teaches many aspects of film, theatre and radio broadcasting and has been excited to see its first graduates break into the film world. Another is off to the top London stage school, RADA.
She said of the play: “I think it’s going to be absolutely great. All the things I’m hearing from the rehearsals is that it’s really good. We’re hoping to get a lot of Sheffield people to come.
“It’s a celebration of the city and it’s really fun and sad.”
Jack Steele and Family is at the Crucible Theatre from Friday July 12 to Saturday 20. Box office: call 0114 249 6000 or visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk