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Interview: Liverpool's Cathy Tyson talks about her role in Monkey Bars, Liverpool Playhouse Studio

by Chris High. Published Fri 04 Oct 2013 17:37

Taken from conversations held with 72 children aged 6 – 11 and from a diverse range of social and cultural backgrounds, Monkey Bars, currently showing at The Playhouse Studio, is an intriguing look on life that offers new light through old windows as to how the modern world works. Here, actor Cathy Tyson talks to Chris High about the show and what it means to be back on stage in her home city.

It must be great performing again in your home city. Is this your first appearance since The Nativity in 2007?
It is my first appearance on stage in Liverpool since the Liverpool nativity. However last Christmas I did an excerpt of a reading for the reader organisation of A Christmas Carol, in St Georges Hall.

This will be a first appearance for you in the new Playhouse Studio. What are you looking forward to most about performing in such an intimate space?
What I am looking forward to performing at the Playhouse studio space is the closeness of the audience. There is a real connection with people, a feeling that we are all in this together, as we indeed are.

What is it about Monkey Bars that attracted you to the play?
The unusualness of the project attracted me to this piece and also its genuine desire to honour the voices of children. I have never done verbatim theatre before so there is a particular responsibility that comes with this. The words on the page seem even more sacred. Another thing that attracted me was the opportunity to be lighter. In fact I think this is the first show in which I am seen to do much more laughing, which is a good thing. It is a joy to laugh on stage. So, thanks to Chris Goode for giving me that opportunity.

Working with Chris Goode and such an accomplished cast must be very exciting? Have you worked with Chris or any of the other cast members previously?

Could you tell me a little about your character in Monkey Bars?
The characters in the piece are an amalgamation of personalities, however one of the main threads for me is a girl, who before the twenty minute conversation with dialogue artist Karl, hardly speaks that much. But the experience of being asked the questions and being listened to in a non judgemental way, gives her confidence. Her own last words in the play detail her journey.

What can audiences expect from Monkey Bars?
Audiences can expect, humour, delight and poetry from Monkey bars. And a committed cast that created this show last year before I joined. Before every show there is an excitement back stage that has helped to keep the show fresh. It also offers audiences a chance to connect with their inner child and reflect on how they were or weren't listened to as a child. So there may be some mixed memories for people.

But that is what theatre is about, as Christian Roe in our cast said, ‘theatre is about saying the things we don't say in life’. I also think it will give audiences a sense of the freedom of language. I think I have become less snobby about language after doing this play. Yes, it is affecting the way I listen. Before this play I may have dismissed someone who had a lot of ‘umm,s’ and ‘likes’ in their sentences. And with that dismissal I may have only listened to 25%. Because of this verbatim piece I am able to have patience as people may have to climb a few ‘ums’ and likes before they get to the point of what they are saying. And usually as the play shows, it is worth waiting for. So I think that is a powerful development for me. I am grateful for that.

The Everyman Theatre had a big influence on your early career. Have you been keeping up to date with the theatres redevelopment?

I have heard snippets about the new theatre development and like others am looking forward to seeing the brand new building. I have spent the last three years in university in London so have not been as up to date with what has been going on. The last thing I saw at the Studio was The Match Girl. The theatre was packed to the rafters and that was a good feeling to see so many people there.

Do you get to see many performances in Liverpool and how has Liverpool’s theatre scene changed since you began acting?
When I was in Liverpool the Royal Court did not have plays on its stage. That theatre has helped to introduce the stage to a whole new audience. The working classes now make up a large part of the audiences thanks to the Royal Court.

Do you still get nervous before going on stage?
Nerves come on me at unexpected moments. Sometimes they come during the show. When that happens I just try to listen even more intently.

What’s next?
After the end of the run on 12th November, I will continue to work on a writing idea that I have. I have always wanted to put on my own theatre piece and all the writing I did at university has encouraged me to pursue this. I will also hope that another play comes along. To combine an acting career with writing would be the ideal thing for me. I must be crazy!


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