SCAN caught up with actor Matthew Durkan ahead of the brand new play ‘Lancastrians’ opening at the Dukes Theatre next week.

For those who don’t know, can you sum up this new play for us?

Lancastrians is a new verbatim play using real words of the people of Lancashire who have been interviewed by Junction 8 Theatre over the last year. We fully immerse the audience on a journey of Lancashire past and present discussing various issues that are affecting the county today as well as the joys of living in the North West. It’s funny, thought-provoking, harrowing, uplifting and a chance to see something directed by Liz Stevenson before she takes over the world! (Liz has just been appointed Artistic Director of Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake)

What inspired a play to focus on Lancashire?

Junction 8 Theatre is one of the comparatively few professional theatre companies based in the county. Their first production Under the Market Roof was inspired by and performed in Chorley. Liz, our director, wanted their second show to go further afield and to build audiences in her home county. Liz had a feeling that there was a less keen sense of regional identity and pride and wanted to investigate whether that was the case, and why. As a group of teenagers in Lancaster said in one interview, you don’t often hear Lancashire stories.

What’s it been like working with the smaller cast of three?

This cast is the smallest I have worked with, and it’s been a real joy. We have to be in complete synchronicity during the show as we are all onstage throughout. Even when we aren’t speaking, we are still actively engaged in the story, helping to bring each account to life. It’s been a real workout for us as actors but a thoroughly rewarding challenge.

What’s it been like working with material that comes from interviews with people in Lancashire?

I have loved verbatim as a medium ever since seeing ‘Home’ at the National Theatre in 2014 so was thrilled to be able to try my hand at it with Lancastrians. We had only the sound files and transcripts to work from for each of our characters, so we had no clues when it came to their appearance. Using the tapes, we worked with an incredible movement director, Kieran Sheehan, who helped us to form specific physicalities and personalities for each character we play.
The interviews themselves, I find, are like a piece of music. The intonations, interruptions and pauses are all so important when bringing the interviewees to life and there’s also a precise blunt, humorous and self-deprecating Lancastrian way of speaking that I was very keen to keep.

Where did the idea for a ‘meal ticket’, being able to purchase a traditional Lancashire meal before the play, come from?

For Junction 8’s first production, Under the Market Roof set outdoors on Chorley market, they found that audiences loved having a bite to eat before the show as part of the experience. It allows people to settle in, have a catch up with friends and soak up the atmosphere before the performance begins. It enables the whole event to be a great night out. Food was also a topic of many conversations we had during the interviews! We also wanted to work with local independent businesses in each town to build relationships for the future and help us to engage with that community.

And most importantly, when is the play, and how do we get tickets?

Lancastrians runs at The Dukes in Lancaster from Wednesday, May 1-4 at 7.30pm with food and drinks available from 6.30pm! You can get tickets either at The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or online from their website: https://dukes-lancaster.org/?event=lancastrians&event_date=2019-05-01. You can find all other details on Junction 8 Theatre’s website: https://www.junction8theatre.co.uk/lancastrians

I look forward to seeing you all there! Please stick around after the show too for a chat and some drinks!