First there was Bernie and then Linda. Then came Denise and Maureen. All Nolans, all making their mark as Mrs Johnstone in Willie Russell’s celebrated musical Blood Brothers.
Maureen, Mrs J in the latest tour, which comes to The Hawth in Crawley from October 12–17, admits it’s a role she can’t get enough of.
“Before I was in it, I had seen the show 18 times. I was the resident stalker!”
Clearly there’s just something about the show: “The music is fantastic and stays with you afterwards, and it is such a great story. The first time I saw it, I was amazed how much it affected me. There is so much in it that the second time you see it, you go away having laughed at different things, having cried at different things.”
Blood Brothers tells the captivating story of twin boys separated at birth, only to be reunited by a twist of fate and a mother’s haunting secret.
“Bernie was the first in our family, in ’98, and then Linda took over from Bernie, and Denise went into the West End and Linda was on tour. And then Linda was in the West End for a while. I took over from Linda and she went on tour. We are in the Guinness Book of Records. I can’t imagine anyone beating us!
“I had got to know all the cast, and the girls were saying ‘You will be next!’ But I wasn’t even acting at that point. In 2004, I diverted into acting, though. Mum’s The Word was my first play. After that, I took a telephone call saying would I come to audition for Blood Brothers.”
Maureen admits the pressure was massive, the thought of becoming the first Nolan to audition for the show and not get the part. But she got it, and following in the footsteps of her sisters, thoroughly made it her own. Only Anne (the oldest sister) and Coleen (the youngest) haven’t joined the procession.
“I think Coleen has been asked at different times, but Coleen enjoys doing what she does. She loves presenting, and she has never really wanted to act. But she did panto a couple of years ago, and she has got a little bit of the bug now!
“With Blood Brothers, there is a blueprint obviously, which you have to stick you, but I think we have all brought something a little bit different. At the time, I was the first one who was actually a mother. Linda has never had children and neither has Denise, though they have got masses of nieces and nephews. But I think being a mother helps. I think I am doing it for all the parents in the audience, and you think of Mrs Johnstone as this mother in the most horrific circumstances imaginable. When I joined, my son was 15. That was 2005. Now I have got three grandchildren. I am still around babies!
“Over the ten years I have found more and more in the show, all the little things I think ‘Why didn’t I notice that before?’ or ‘Why didn’t I do this before?’. You are learning all the time, but by the end I always feel drained. It’s not an act at all. I have cried every single performance in ten years, genuinely cried.
“There are always things that come into your mind, you are thinking about loss, I am thinking about Bernie (who died in July 2013, aged 52). You can’t help thinking about these things at the end of the show...”
Tickets are available from The Hawth box office on 01293 553636 or at www.hawth.co.uk.
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