You may recognise Samantha Siddall from her days as Mandy Maguire on channel 4’s Shameless but now, along with Monkeywood Theatre she’s embarking on an exciting new venture which explores the identity, community and belonging that comes with being a football fan.
Told in a game of two halves, the production unfolds four stories about Manchester City and Manchester United, getting to the heart of why the beautiful game has such an impact on our lives, season after season.
Each new play is rooted in the truth about people’s lives and challenges the usual stereotypes about football. Samantha discusses her personal preparation in the build up to the first night; reveals her favourite Mancunian football team and talks passionately about the importance of the arts in the current economic climate.
Can you tell us a little bit about the character you’re playing?
The character is called Eileen and I imagine her to be a little bit older than I am. She’s quite a comedy character, larger than life and initially I was supposed to be wearing a fat suit because she’s quite a bigger lady than I am. You see two halves to her, she’s a circus character really in the first half and then you start to see another side of her as the play develops.
What preparation did you have to do for the role?
I wasn’t sure whether the casting team were going to see me at all because it’s not somebody that I would usually play. She’s written a lot different to my own physical appearance but in terms of character I had a good grasp on her so it’s useful in terms of preparation.
Football is such a prominent part of the production – are you a fan or did you find that you had to do additional research?
No not really, I knew that it was about City and United and that’s a big theme that runs throughout and it’s a big appeal to football fans as well as theatre fans. In terms of the story, as long as I’m playing the character as well as its written then I don’t need to know too much about football. I do know a little bit about it because I used to support United – I don’t know why I said used to I still do! I’ve not really followed football since I was a teenager but I still know a lot about United.
The production almost sounds like a football version of Love Actually comprising of a variety of stories that all develop and intertwine. With such a complex plot is it hard to convey the impression of a football match?
Each play is about 22 and half minutes each and there are four plays in it – we have a half –time so it equals out to about 90 minutes so it actually plays out in a match format. When the audience come in they will feel as if they’re very much in a match ground on match day, the stage is actually a football pitch and we’re ‘playing’ as in acting on that pitch and we have lots of flags and scarves to convey that best online casino the audience are at a football match and in a stadium.
How different is it to work on stage rather than television?
I’ve probably done more stage in the last two to three years than I have television. I’ve got a little boy as well so it fits in quite well. In television you go in and film different sections and I suppose it’s easier because you go in and get the job done and then go home but you don’t get the same satisfaction as you do with theatre. You don’t get to tell the full story in one run. You also don’t have that instant recognition from the audience. It’s great to have them in the room with you – that’s a real buzz – don’t get me wrong, it’s nerve wracking and I get nervous before a performance but you have to use those nerves to drive you through.
Monkeywood Theatre is dedicated to the surrounding Manchester communities – was this a selling point for you?
Yes absolutely, I hadn’t known much about Monkeywood Theatre before I began work with them but it is a massive appeal with the work they do and the fact it’s in Manchester and I get to work close to home. I am a big advocate for helping out and reaching to other local communities especially given the times that we’re in and the government arts funding cuts – I think it’s especially important.
How important do you think it is to create accessible theatre?
Oh massively! This production appeals to theatre fans but football fans too. I’ve been advertising it to my friends on social media and there are so many people getting in touch that I know wouldn’t usually buy theatre tickets but they are because they’re really big City fans or United fans. I think it’s important to keep producing theatre like that because it should appeal to everyone. It’s not just for the elite. It’s extremely important to make it accessible for local people because if it’s not for them then who are you making it for?
The show begins on Thursday 17th September, how are you feeling, is there anything you’re particularly nervous about?
I’m okay but I’m using a mobile scooter and I’m reliant quite heavily on other props – it’s not the case of learning the lines but it’s the performances where I’m reliant on sitting on a scooter throughout – it’s going to be a tricky one. That’s the only thing making me nervous at the moment, just the technical issues!