CLAIRE Sweeney grew up in Liverpool so she understands the lure of the bright lights of Blackpool.
The stage and small screen actress best known for Brookside, Loose Women and theatre musicals such as Legally Blonde and Tell Me on a Sunday is the daughter of a butcher with a shop in Toxteth from where she enjoyed trips up the road to Blackpool as a child.
“I also used to sing in Blackpool a lot as a teenager when I was doing my cabaret shows,” she told the Mail.
So Claire says she can ‘totally relate’ to Liz, her character in September in the Rain, one half of a Yorkshire couple whose life is charted over the course of 40 years by looking at their annual trips to Blackpool. It’s a two-hander by John Godber in which Claire is joined by comedy favourite John Thomson (Cold Feet, The Fast Show).
“We play the characters from their 20s to 70. It’s a lovely play with so much humour in it and very cleverly written,” Claire says.
September in the Rain, which can be seen at Derby Theatre, charts the life of Liz and husband Jack through their annual summer holiday jaunt across the Pennines. It takes us to the golden age of donkey rides, talent contests, saucy postcards, stripy deckchairs, ice cream, rolled-up trousers and knotted hankies.
Audiences follow the journey of Jack and Liz as they dip in and out of time recalling their first holiday as newlyweds, to their last, sharing memories filled with tears and laughter, fish and chips and wet and windy promenades.
It is one of Godber’s earliest plays but Claire say it has lost none of its resonance in the last 30 years
“It’s a timeless piece, so many people relate to it across different age groups.”
The current touring production is directed by Godber himelf and it remains one of his most personal plays as it was inspired by his grandparents.
Claire says: “John met his wife through this play as well, when she was playing the part of Liz, so it means a lot to him.”
Claire says the great playwright is a joy to work with
“I have been long wanting to work in his plays and with him, so when this chance came along it was impossible to pass up. We spent three weeks with him in rehearsal and he was very honest and open about it. He’s great storyteller. You think he’s going off at a tangent but he brings it round and shows you the reason he’s told you the tale. He gets you telling stories and, essentially, that’s what this show is about, communicating with the audience.
Claire is also enjoying working with John Thomson.
“I knew him socially but I have never worked with him. It is just the two of us so thank god we get on both on stage and off. I like that it’s not a musical as well, as it gives me a chance to flex my comedy muscles.
September in the Rain is at Derby Theatre from October 22-26. Tickets are £10.50-£25.50. Call 01332 593939 or go to www.derbytheatre.co.uk.