Sheffielder Bronwen Ebdon gets a chance to stand on Crucible stage again in new musical
One of the stars of a new show devised for a community cast in Sheffield is getting a chance to return to the stage where she first stood aged 17.
Bronwen Ebdon is among a 60-strong cast in the musical, Songs from the Seven Hills, that gets its world premiere at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre this week.
Bronwen said: “It’s basically the story of Sheffield and the people within it. It’s broken down into six short stories that are interwoven.
“Within those six stories is a bigger story which I feel is about being from Sheffield and what it means to part of that city and this community.
“I play Bex, who runs a community centre called the Lighthouse. She is someone who has given her life to this community centre and the people within it.
“Like a lot of people that are very strong and who are passionate about a good cause and helping other people, they focus everything on the project they’re doing and will help other people but their life suffers.
“I feel that Bex is an incredibly strong character but there is a deeply vulnerable side to her. She keeps going and keeps fighting and she has suffered, like a lot of people.
“She’s very much a family person as well and her family extends to her friends. They become family as well.”
The show was written especially for Sheffield People’s Theatre, which is Sheffield Theatres’ non-professional group, by John Hollingworth, Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie.
Bronwen added: “I think what’s wonderful about this play and the way it’s been written is that it started off as a series of workshops.
“All the members of Sheffield People’s Theatre amd past members as well were invited to a series of days to share stories of being in Sheffield, growing up here and where we lived and memorable moments, everything we wanted to share.
“It was a really cathartic experience, it felt like therapy a little bit at times. Being part of Sheffield People’s Theatre was common ground. We all have a love for the Crucible, it’s touched our hearts in various parts of our lives.”
Bronwen first worked on a Crucible production of Romeo and Juliet when she was 17, during the last years of the theatre’s repertory company.
She said: “I was down in the costume department and had the good luck to audition to be part of the ensemble.
“As soon as I walked on that stage and stood in my costume that I’d seen designed, that was the bug for me.”
She moved to Liverpool from Sheffield to pursue her acting career at the Everyman Theatre. She also set up a community arts space.
Bronwen, who, like Bex, lost her dad at an early age, said: “I suppose I went off searching for family and things I thought I’d lost here. Twenty years later, I’ve come back and been welcomed back in.”
She appeared in last year’s show, What We Wished For, in the role of Wolf Mother.
Bronwen recently appeared at the Crucible as part of the ensemble working alongside a professional cast in Frost/Nixon, starring Jonathan Hyde and Daniel Rigby. “It was like an acting masterclass every night,” she said.
Julia's review of the show, which ends its run tomorrow, Saturday:
This new musical of six interlinked stories from today’s Sheffield, performed by a big community cast, made for an enjoyable evening.
It was a mixture of drama and feel-good moments that the big cast mainly handled well, although some lines were hard to hear.
Stand-out performers included Bronwen Ebdon as Bex, fighting to save her community centre under threat from a corrupt councillor, and Tommi Bryson as Georgie, trying to get her family to accept her change of gender.
The songs were great and the ensemble worked hard to do them justice in the big routines.
Touching scenes involved a family fleeing Syria. In a lovely moment one anti-refugee woman suddenly made a connection when she heard they were bombed out of their home, reminding her of what she went through in the Sheffield Blitz.