Mona Lisa star Cathy Tyson in Doncaster to tell real-life crime stories in The Listening Room

Mona Lisa and Band of Gold star Cathy Tyson is taking part in The Listening Room, a unique stage show about the effects of violent crime.

By Julia Armstrong
Monday, 03 June, 2019, 13:27
Cathy Tyson, appearing in The Listening Room

The Listening Room, coming to Cast in Doncaster, is created from verbatim accounts of what happens when real offenders and victims meet years later as part of restorative justice programmes.

Cathy said it was her third outing with the play and she joined about a year after it was first performed in London.

“They had seen me in Stand by Chris Goode, which was at Latitude, that was a verbatim piece of theatre about interviewing activists in all walks of life.

“I really like the company: it’s an ensemble piece and we get on very, very well. That’s why I’ve returned, as well as the subject matter. Fortunately, it’s been just as engaging.”

Cathy that the actors never know which role they will play until they are on stage. “Because the attacks  were random, every night the audience decides who we play by handing us an envelope. That is a really good device.

“We’ve practised the characters in rehearsals, so we get to listen to the characters. We also listen to the characters’ voices through headphones.

“As the characters’ voices are coming into the headphones, we are trying to reconnect and give life to their situations.

“It keeps you on your toes and there’s painting involved in this. Between each section, we do a painting scene. An image develops. I think it’s very interesting.”

Cathy said that it’s been fascinating to work with a younger generation of theatre makers with new ideas.

She added: “Most of the work I’m doing, apart from one film, is in theatre. People are saying ‘Are you not doing any TV work?’ as if that’s the height of status or achievement.

“What I’m doing as a theatre actor, you have to be strong – look at the rigours of rehearsal and touring and having to be fit.” 

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Cathy stressed that screen actors don’t have an easy time, though. “I've done TV and theatre work, you have to maintain concentration with long breaks in between.”

The Liverpool-born actress said she loves living in London but believes it’s important for theatre to get out to other parts of the country.

Audience reactions have been strong, Cathy said: “This is hard stuff to listen to. They’ve been very moved in lots of post-show talks.

“We’ve been to prisons and primary schools – it’s been a very eclectic tour. Never a dull moment!

“When we were just in one of the prisons, somebody decided they’d like to begin the process with someone they’d hurt. 

“That's why I wanted to go into theatre in the first place. It can change people's lives. It changed my life for a start.

“I thought if it can change my life, it can change others’. I would have been on a completely different track if I hadn’t found my purpose in life.”

Cathy will soon be appearing in an adaptation of 1980s film My Beautiful Laundrette. She was amused by my idea of a stage version of Mona Lisa. 

“That would be great! In Leeds they’re talking about Band of Gold as well. I think I’m not in it, I wasn’t good enough for them. 

“I’m too old for that (Mona Lisa) role, though, so I wouldn’t be in it.”

The Listening Room is at Cast in Doncaster on June 11. Box office: www.castindoncaster.com