Shameless star Marjorie Yates is playing a role that’s a long way from saucy Carol in the new musical reopening of the refurbished Lyceum this week.
Marjorie plays grandma May in This Is My Family, a wry comedy about modern family life and tensions between three generations.
She said: “She’s at the early stages of Alzheimer’s and she’s living on her own. She nearly sets fire to the house.
“She’s brought into the family house but doesn’t have a great relationship with her daughter-in-law. I know that too well.
“She was a single mother and her husband died very early. She is very independent and quite a character.
“Lots of things about the character are slightly quirky. She goes to church but at the same time she listens to the cricket on the radio.
“What I do like about it is the mixture in the show – with music, with comedy but it’s also extremely touching. Everybody in it can make you cry.
Take her own character, for example. “May gets very vulnerable and gets worse and that takes her back to when she first met the love of her life. She ends up reliving that.”
Marjorie admits she finds it daunting joining a cast that’s already performed the show at the Crucible Studio. Her role was created by Sian Phillips two years ago.
“The whole show got an award, which is slightly scary for me. Sian is a very clever actress. I’ve seen her in lots of things.”
Marjorie said: “I’ve enjoyed it so far. It’s only been seven weeks since I was asked to be the replacement. It’s worked out well so far.
“The character is my age so I have the least operatic singing to do.
“I’m thrilled. I have sung on stage before but never in a musical. I’ve done it in a panto and on stage at the National Theatre.”
Marjorie’s mum was a pub pianist and singer in Birmingham on Saturday nights and she made all six of her children have piano lessons,which has helped Marjorie learn the music.
She was fascinated to learn that the show’s writer, Tim Firth of Calendar Girls fame, can’t read or write music despite composing the whole show.
Marjorie said that one of the most difficult parts is learning how to maintain the character of May when she is singing. She likens it to radio acting, which is very different to performing on stage.
“Something in your mind has to switch. I’m finding this the same. You’ve got to be bold and you can go quite far with it. As an actor with lines I’m quite naturalistic so I’m finding that a challenge.”
Marjorie said that she got the job in Shameless because she could scream loudly when her daughter Veronica, played by Maxine Peake, announced she was married.
Then her character Carol Fisher was kept on and she stayed in the show for four years.
Marjorie said she is still good friends with Maxine and other actors, adding: “We seem to be together still as a family.”
She added: “A lot of the time I didn’t have many clothes on but I didn’t mind that. They were always very careful that it wasn’t gratuitous nudity.
“It’s amazing how well known that show was. I was in Australia on a Melbourne station and the station mistress said to me: ‘We love you’!
“I didn’t know what she meant, the show or me!”
* This is My Family runs at the Crucible from tonight, Thursday, to Saturday, October 18. Box office: 0114 249 6000 or go to Sheffield Theatres