Fire destroys the set, but the show goes on in Worthing

Fire is “so destructive and so horrible”, but in the end, company spirit proved far stronger.

Rebecca Birch as Rosie, Kathryn Ritchie as Jackie, Lisa Burrows as Margaret - Copyright Sheila Burnett
Rebecca Birch as Rosie, Kathryn Ritchie as Jackie, Lisa Burrows as Margaret - Copyright Sheila Burnett

On New Year’s Eve a blaze destroyed the entire set of the touring production by London Classic Theatre of Charlotte Keatley’s My Mother Said I Never Should.

Six months’ work went up in flames; but four weeks later, with new costumes and a completely-new set, the company were ready in time for the second leg of their tour which now brings them to Worthing’s Connaught Theatre on March 19 and 20.

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Kathryn Ritchie returns to play Jackie Metcalfe: “It was a pretty horrific start to the New Year. We didn’t learn about it until we had an email on New Year’s Day. We were just left trying to imagine what we were going to do, but thankfully the insurers have been brilliant, and they got the ball rolling. And we had a fantastic production team around us. Being a vintage show, a lot of the costumes were one-offs, but they have been resourcing and reworking, and everybody pulled together. It has been lovely to see everybody working so hard together to make this work.

“We did fear for the rest of the tour. You just can’t foresee something as catastrophic as that happening. We were fortunate not to have lost anything personal, but that was six months work that had to be remade in four weeks. Having done the first (leg of the tour), it was all costumes I had been wearing six or seven days a week. It was so destructive. For the new people coming in, they had to deal with it too. But everybody has been so positive. If you let yourself think it was all too much, then it would have been impossible, but the show must go on!”

Set in Manchester, Oldham and London, My Mother Said I Never Should is a poignant, bitter-sweet story about love, jealousy and the price of freedom. The play details the lives of four women through the immense social changes of the 20th century.

Using a kaleidoscopic time structure, Keatley’s story focuses on four generations of one family as they confront the most significant moments of their lives.

Kathryn is playing Jackie, mother to Rosie: “I think it is so unusual to have a play by a woman for women and about women, about the significant moments but also about the everyday things. We see them through four generations. There is drama in there and there is comedy in there too.

“I knew about the play. London Classic Theatre had done it before. They first did it back in 2000, but I didn’t really know anything about the play.

“But it is brilliant. I love the way it jumps around. It is not always in chronological order. It goes backwards and forwards. You might see a character as an adult and then as a child, and in some ways, the audience are ahead of the game. They know what is going to happen, and there are moments of real emotional connection and poignancy.

“The play asks ‘Does the next generation ever learn from the previous generation?’ Or do we simply carry on making the same mistakes. My character you first meet as a rebellious 16 or 17-year-old wanting to break free and be independent, and then she falls pregnant at university. She was born in 1951, and you see her as a nine-year-old and then through the 70s as a student, and she has got to make decisions about baby Rosie. Can a mother be a mother and have a career at the same time?”