On The Shore Of The Wide World
Carla Henry Interview

Port, Simon Stephen's last play at the Royal Exchange, received widespread critical acclaim so it's with some anticipation that "On The Shore Of The Wide World" makes it's world premiere in Manchester before moving to the capital. Based around the relationships of families and particular that of fathers and sons, writing the play was a cathartic experience. When Stephen's was 29 his father had died of lung cancer, at the same time his first song was just over one years old. It was this personal experience and mixed emotions of joy and despair which fuels this play, although that's not to say it's a straightforward autobiographical piece.

Many of you will know Carla Henry for her role as Donna in the legendary Queer As Folk Series, but over the past few years she's preferred to tackle more challenging roles in theatre than settle for television / film roles. Her performances in the likes of Storm (Contact Theatre) and Habitat (Royal Exchange) have seen her tackle a wide variety of roles and On The Shore Of The Wide World is no different. Designer Magazine's Alex McCann caught up with Carla Henry in Manchester to talk about the play which looks set for a 6 month run in Manchester and London.

Q: We know the premise of On The Shore Of The Wide World. Could you fill us in in your own words briefly about the story and ideas behind the play?
A: It's written by Simon Stephens who did Port at the Royal Exchange a couple of years ago. This is his second play that he's done at the Royal Exchange.

Without giving to much of the story away it's about a family in Stockport. I play a character called Sarah from Longsight who is not a member of family, but is a girlfriend of one of the young boys (Alex). Sarah comes into the family at the beginning of the play and they've never really met anyone like her before because it's the first time Alex has had a girlfriend at the house. It's about the journey and their relationship...and something really significant happens, which I won't say cos it will give the plot away, and it kind of changes them and puts them on a different path.

The good thing about working on it is that it's a new play. If someone goes to see Anthony & Cleopatra they know what to expect.

Q: Every time we meet you it tends to be in theatre performances. Do you prefer the theatre to TV or film roles?
A: I've been doing a lot of theatre. Before this I did a play up in Glasgow at the Citizens Theatre and now i'm doing this. I think i'm doing theatre because I like the roles that i'm getting and the characters that i'm getting I find that I can work with them and be creative. It's not that choose to do theatre over TV and film, it's just the characters that I get offered are interesting to me. It's not as self conscious as saying this year I'm going to do theatre or this year i'm going to do TV, because I like all of them for different reasons.

Some people prefer theatre and find it harder. Obviously with theatre you're doing it every day, and this is a 6 month run because it goes to the National after Manchester. We don't want this show to go stale so we have to keep working it at and finding new things. Over the 6 months you'll see the play adapt slightly so that we're doing different scenes throughout.

Q: When you get a script sent through from your agent what is the first thing that grabs you and draws you in?
A: First of all I read the play and particularly look at my character and the journey they have. For me it's all about whether I can bring that character alive and whether I find that character in the play interesting. For me the role has always got to be something that will challenge me a little bit and something that is different from what i've done before. I try to make every character that I choose as different as possible so i'm not playing the same role all the time.

I like this role because I think I can bring something quite different to it. When I first read the play I could potentially play this character quite one dimensional and quite obvious and easy, but I like the fact challenge of making her more interesting and bringing in something different that you wouldn't expect.

Q: You look at the cast members of "On The Shore Of The Wide World" and you see credits including modern classic such as Clocking Off and Linda through to the hugely influential Kes.
A: Kes is a film that I absolutely love. It's one of favourite ever ever films. Unfortunately I didn't get to see the production of Kes here (the Royal Exchange), but I heard it was amazing.

I've worked with Siobhan Finneran (who play Alice in the play) before and she's just fantastic. But everybody else is fantastic and it's a really good cast. What makes it work so well is everybody's really different.

Q: How did you prepare for this particular role?
A: The play's got a lot of back history to it so we spent a lot of time doing that. We all went out to Stockport and did some research on it which was really helpful. Myself and Tom Morrisson, who plays my boyfriend Alex, went round some of the sights which are in the script. I'd never been to Stockport before so I needed to get a feel and a sense of Stockport and the characters home.

Q: When the play moves to the National in London is going to stay in Stockport?
A: (laughs) We're not going to change it and set it in Hackney. It's still going to be set in Stockport and have Mancunian accents. Apparently the layout of the Cottersloe Theatre is exactly the same as well so it will definitely be the same play.

Q: "On The Shore Of The Wide World" runs for six months now. What are you looking to do after the run ends?
A: After this i'll hopefully be doing a play in Manchester at the Contact Theatre by a wonderful theatre company called Quarantine, they did a play White Trash. They're working on a new production of Grace which is completely different process because they don't normally work with actors, they just work with normal people like they did with "White Trash".

On The Shore Of The Wide World runs at the Royal Exchange until May 14
Tickets are priced between £7.50 and £25.50
For more information

Check out the Designer Magazine review of the play by clicking here
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