Tag Archives: Jimmy McGovern

No Second Bite

Award-winning actress Lynne Fitzgerald stars in the new comedy play ‘No Second Bite’ by Belvedere Pashun (writer of Norma Jeane The Musical and WAG! The Musical). Fitzgerald plays Bella, a bored, single, forty-something entrepreneur who has a life-changing encounter when she buys an apologetic cup of coffee for a complete stranger, Chris (played by Jaiden Micheal).

After bumping full force into Chris on a bustling high street, they arrange to meet up in Bella’s apartment later that evening. Bella has the place all to herself, or so she thought. Her flatmate Angie (Charlie Griffiths) arrives home early carrying a large bottle of cherry Lambrini. She needs consoling after being stood up by the latest loser in her long list of tosspot boyfriends. Bella uses every tactic to get Angie to leave her home alone before Chris calls around to deliver more than just a pizza…

This fast-paced comedy has been referred to as ‘The Liver Birds on acid’.

No Second Bite

ten minutes hate put Fitzgerald in the spotlight, ahead of the play’s run at the Lantern Liverpool, to talk rituals, Ava Gardner and how graft does indeed equal craft.

Lynne Fitzgerald

10mh: What do you do before going on stage, do you have any particular superstitious rituals, routines or habits?

What a great question, absolutely. I became a single mum at 18 to my only child, Frankie. I couldn’t get a day job, so as you do I decided I would become a stand-up comic, the innocence of youth. On my first gig, which was quite terrifying for a teenage girl, I carried a photograph of my boy with me and as I stood at the side of the stage I kissed it and said ‘I’m doing this for you’, then stuffed it inside my bra and on I went. I was booked six times that night and have never performed in any show without that picture and repeating the same ritual, kiss, words, bra and action. He is now 27!

10mh: What was your first memory of the theatre?

Ah, don’t put your daughter on the stage, Miss Worthington! I was four years old when I was put on the stage performing a poem called ‘I blew myself a bubble that was bigger than myself’ at the Southport Art Festival. I forgot every word and the adjudicator made me stay on the stage and repeat it parrot fashion after him, the tears tripping me, but I can honestly say after that experience I was – and still am – always fully prepared and off-script before any performance.

10mh: Who are the playwrights that you admire?

Jim Cartwright is one of my favourite playwrights. Louis Emerick and I have performed in his incredible two handed play TWO in many venues covering Manchester, Merseyside and Scotland over the past five years. He is such an incredible writer with his talent for light and shade, an actor’s dream.

I was also lucky enough to have Jimmy McGovern as my English teacher at my secondary school. I credit him for my ability to write my own plays, he was so inspiring as a teacher.

10mh: What has been your favourite play or project in your career so far?

There have been so many fantastic plays I have performed in. Two, as mentioned, being a favourite. Also a one-woman show, Bunty the Bouncer, which was written for me by playwright Mark Gee (Al’s Lads) over 20 years ago. We had a sell-out run at The Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh during the festival and returned to be nominated for a Liverpool Echo award, being pipped at the post by Johnny Vegas. That was a highlight.

I will be returning as Bunty at the Epstein Theatre in June this year for one night only after it first being performed there over 20 years ago, and of course I have now had five of my own plays produced around Merseyside. That is always a great feeling: seeing your own work come to life. A pilot of my last play Hey Girl Show Us Ye Tips has recently been filmed and is currently in production renamed Life down the Pitts.

10mh: If you could gather an ensemble of actors to put together for a stage project, living or dead, who would you like to cast

Living: I work with great actors all the time: Louis Emerick, Mickey Finn, Crissy Rock – I could go on. I would love to work with Victoria Wood, Julie Walters, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. One of my all-time favourite actresses is Bette Midler.

The past: It would be some of the Hollywood greats, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Phil Silvers and Ava Gardner, the list is endless. I’m an old soul at heart!

10mh: What makes a good performance?

Hard work, hard work, hard work, preparation, preparation, preparation, and also a true understanding of the character and their emotions. Hug the words, make them your own, and did I mention hard work and preparation?

10mh: What advice would you give to anyone who yearns to act or is starting out in the business of treading the boards?

Be prepared for a lot of hard work and a lot of disappointment. The industry is more competitive than ever but saying that, there is an upside, there are a lot more opportunities with social media if you use it to network – and not just for Candy Crush!

The internet provides a great platform for promoting yourself, even filming your own shorts and getting your work out there. Acting is a real inbuilt passion, if it is in you there will be no stopping you and don’t take rejection personally, all actors have their fair share of rejection you just have to dust yourself down and carry on.

No Second Bite runs from 21st-26th April at Lantern Theatre Liverpool, Blundell Street.

Tickets are £10/8 to book visit the website or call box office 01517030000.

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‘Cracker’, To Be a Somebody by Jimmy McGovern

For all the many words written about the Hillsborough Disaster in the last 23 years, some of the most powerful have come from the Liverpool writer and playwright Jimmy McGovern. His 1996 drama about the disaster is being repeated on British TV at the moment but, before watching it, I wanted to go a little further back. McGovern also wrote the criminal psychologist show ‘Cracker’ and the episodes that make up the story ‘To Be a Somebody’ – screened two years earlier than ‘Hillsborough’ – are worth tracking down if you haven’t already seen them.

Robert Carlyle’s performance as Albie Kinsella, the Hillsborough survivor struggling to cope with his father’s death from cancer, allows McGovern to explore reactions to the disaster from a number of different perspectives. He shows us the police struggling to decipher the significance of Kinsella writing the numbers ‘9615498’ in his victim’s blood at the scene of their murders, a brazenly nasty journalist insisting that she as only freelanced for The S*n her conscience is clear, while Albie asserts that:

We’re getting treated like wild animals. And, yeah, one or two of us start acting like wild animals and the cages go up and ninety-six people die.

There are many details here which, while familiar to football fans in general and Liverpool fans in particular, must have shocked when broadcast on a popular, national, primetime show just five years after the disaster. The intervening years have seen them lose none of their impact. Viewers are reminded exactly how grim the early nineties were for large parts of England, our sympathies constantly provoked and confused.  We are led to feel desperately sorry for the grief which has destroyed Albie Kinsella’s family and those of his victims, yet disgusted by the journalist’s joy in instigating a bidding war for the story of her encounter with the killer. Despite telling his wife that he enjoys police work, psychologist Fitz almost gleefully tells a roomful of Manchester’s finest that Albie has:

got to kill 96 people in revenge for Hillsborough, and if there’s any justice in this world, most of them will be coppers.

Words that will return to haunt him later in the story. This was always one of the strengths of ‘Cracker’, that the police officers and title character were as flawed and three-dimensional as those they were seeking to lock up. As McGovern explains in this 2008 interview with journalist Paul Du Noyer:

 I always say the thing about ‘Cracker’ was that it was post-Hillsborough, that was the key thing for me. The way contempt for a huge sector of humanity could lead to something like that.

That mistrust and disquiet threads through the tale, perhaps most noticably in the family of a murdered shopkeeper. Of course, a major difference between drama and reality is that while McGovern’s story has the trauma of 15 April 1989 turning a gentle man into a murderer, many of those traumatised by what they witnessed on that day instead turned the anger in on themselves and died by their own hand. Others still live with the psychological effects of the disaster:

Hillsborough took away my life. It is hard to cope with sometimes. It is the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last think about when I go to bed. Every day, 365 days a year.

It is running through my head like a video tape: people screaming for help but that help never arrives – they were in pure pain and agony, that’s what goes through my mind most of all.

According to McGovern, following the screening of ‘To Be a Somebody’, members of the bereaved families asked him to help tell their story, which he did to great effect in ‘Hillsborough’. These episodes are then an invaluable prelude to that perhaps more complete story, but as drama they stand alone – as testament to what Stephen King calls,

the truth inside the lie

of fiction – that it often does as much as a factual report to illuminate and inform. It is arguable whether the Hillsborough Independent Panel report would have been commissioned without the campaign by the families which Jimmy McGovern’s writing did so much to assist. This is television at its best, controversial but not for the sake of it, challenging and ambitious in scope, disconcerting and disturbing, yet always compelling and intelligent without losing its capacity to entertain. And so I am reminded, once again, of George Orwell’s words:

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

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