Former Brookside star Eithne Browne and musical theatre favourite Tony Timberlake have been cast in Maggie May, which opens at Leeds Playhouse on 7-21 May. This new play by award-winning writer Frances Poet shines a light on the experience of living with dementia.
Directed by Jemima Levick, Maggie May is an extraordinary play about an ordinary Leeds family learning to cope with a life-changing diagnosis. Written with honesty, beautifully balanced with humour and music, it is, ultimately, an uplifting story of love in all its guises.
The play, a co-production between Leeds Playhouse, Curve, and Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, was originally commissioned in 2017 as part of Leeds Playhouse’s award-winning Every Third Minute Festival, an innovative seven-week festival of theatre, dementia and hope curated by people living with dementia and their supporters.
It was previously due to tour in the spring of 2020 but was halted by the pandemic. It will now open at Leeds Playhouse from 7-21 May before transferring to Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch from 24-28 May and Curve from 7-11 June.
Director Jemima Levick said: “I’m thrilled that Maggie May is finally making it to Leeds, Hornchurch and Leicester after the pandemic forced us to take an unexpected two-year hiatus. To be given the opportunity to revisit this special show and to share its inspirational messages of love and hope with audiences is really exciting.
“This is something of a homecoming for the show as it was created in Leeds with the help of local people living with dementia and their families. Frances (Poet) has skilfully woven their lived experiences into her play, using their thoughts and ideas as threads in her beautiful life-affirming tapestry about how we learn and re-learn to communicate .
“I’m so excited to be working with such a spectacularly talented cast and creative team on this very special show – I can’t wait for audiences to finally see it.”
The play centres around Maggie, played by Eithne Browne, one of Liverpool’s most well-loved and popular actors – she’s even the voice of the Mersey Ferries. With starring roles in the original Blood Brothers in the West End, Shirley Valentine, and numerous Liverpool Royal Court Theatre productions and TV appearances on shows such as Waterloo Road, Cold Feet and as Brookside regular Chrissy Rogers, she has enjoyed a dazzling career spanning more than three decades.
Tony Timberlake, who stars as Maggie’s husband Gordon, has enjoyed a long and illustrious theatre career, including Chicago (Garrick Theatre); Hairspray (Shaftesbury Theatre); Spamalot (Palace Theatre); Singin’ in the Rain (National Theatre); Les Miserables (Palace Theatre); and Into the Woods (Donmar Warehouse).
The five-strong Maggie May cast also includes York actor Mark Holgate (Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre; Julius Caesar, The Crucible, Sheffield; Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Tina & Bobby) as Maggie and Gordon’s son Michael; Leeds actor Shireen Farkhoy (The Ipcress File, ITV1; Silent Witness, BBC1) as Mark’s girlfriend Claire; and Maxine Finch (LIT, Nottingham Playhouse; Coronation Street, Hollyoaks, DCI Banks) as Maggie’s best friend, Jo.
The creative team includes Set & Costume Designer Francis O’Connor, Theatre and Dementia Advisor Dr Nicky Taylor,Associate Designer Alex Doidge-Green, Movement Director Joseph Mercier,Lighting Designer Chris Davey, Composer & Sound Designer Claire McKenzie, Casting Director Kay Magson and Dialect Coach Eleanor Manners.
All performances of Maggie May at Leeds Playhouse, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and Curve will be dementia-friendly, with additional staff, detailed pre-show information and a quiet space. Each venue will also host a free interactive installation – The Picture Booth – designed by Leeds Playhouse Resident Designer Warda Abbasi to amplify the experiences of people living with dementia.