YORK actresses Claire Morley and Elizabeth Hope will perform a script-in-hand reading of Rachel E Thorn’s new play, Me For You, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, on January 30.
This is the latest in the SJT’s regular series of readings of works by up-and-coming writers, chosen from submissions to the literary department, in this case one longlisted for the Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing.
In Me For You, Holly (played by Elizabeth Hope) knows that human beings have screwed the planet, but she is still desperate to have a baby of her own. She has tried doing the right thing, but can using a bamboo toothbrush really reverse global warming?
In a bid to save the planet, Holly has joined Extinction Rebellion and just wishes her girlfriend, Alex (Claire Morley), would sign up too.
“Me For You is a play all about love in the face of overwhelming evidence that we’re a despicable race of selfish parasites,” says Rachel E Thorn, a writer and actress from Sheffield, who pens comedy for BBC Radio 4 and has collaborated with impressionists Alistair McGowan, Charlie Hopkinson and Darren Altman.
Rachel also tours the country with her improvised shows that have taken home the Best Improv Show awards from the Leicester Comedy Festival and Edinburgh Fringe.
Claire’s preparations are under way for this month’s one-off reading. “I was sent a draft of the script in November, so that I can get an idea of the themes of the play and the characters, but really most of the work is done on the day as there might be new edits,” she says.
“On the morning of the performance, I’ll meet with Fleur Hebditch, a producer at the SJT, writer Rachel and Elizabeth for the first time. We’ll spend the day discussing the script and have a rehearsal before a sharing in the evening, script in hand.
“There’ll also be a Q&A with the writer afterwards. Rachel has written a cracking piece so I’m excited to get stuck in.”
Claire first took part in a Stephen Joseph Theatre reading in August 2021. “We did Emma Geraghty’s play Lagan,” she recalls. “It then became These Majestic Creatures, which was produced by the SJT as a fully realised production last autumn [in the McCarthy].
“The emphasis is really on the development of the work for the writer. That’s why it’s so great to work with them during the day as you can find out their vision and do your best in fleshing out this character for them, often for the first time.”
Claire continues: “Rehearsed readings are a great opportunity to work on complex characters and interesting writing without the pressure of line-learning! I enjoyed being part of one with Live Theatre, Newcastle, last April as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations, along with their special guest, Roger Allam, who played my father in Shelagh Stephenson’s An Experiment With An Air Pump.”
Born and bred in York, Claire is a graduate of ALRA (Academy of Live & Recorded Arts) North Drama School, in Wigan, Greater Manchester, and a former teacher.
She caught the eye on the York stage in the title role in Maggie Smales’s all-female version of Henry V for York Shakespeare Project (YSP) in 2015 and as Kastril in Bronzehead Theatre’s masked production of Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist at the 2019 York International Shakespeare Festival.
In 2022, she completed a hattrick of all-female Shakespeare performances, after YSP’s Henry V and Coriolanus in 2019, starring as Macbeth in Chris Connaughton’s three-hander version of Macbeth for Northumberland Theatre Company in a tour that visited Stillington Village Hall, near York, and Pocklington Arts Centre.
Coming next after Me For You will be Claire’s participation in York community arts collective Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios at York Theatre Royal Studio on March 26 and 27.
Through a series of commissions, York actors, writers and directors are being supported by NDB1 to produce original, short pieces of theatre – five to 15-minute solo performances – that respond to the overall theme of Top of the Hill.
Directed Jacob Ward, Claire will perform Yixia Jiang’s Love Letters Before Dawn. ”Jacob and I should be receiving Yixia’s script later this week, so I actually know very little at this stage,” she says.
“I do know it’s about a soldier defending a battlefield despite all seeming lost, and how to persevere and find hope. I’m excited to read it. We’ll be having a handful of rehearsals between now and joining up with the other trios for the performances in March.”
Me For You, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, January 30, 7.15pm. Tickets: £5, on 01723 370541 or at www.sjt.uk.com. Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios, York Theatre Royal Studio, March 26 and 27, 7.45pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Did you know?
CLAIRE Morley first made the pages of The Press, York, on August 18 2007 after she achieved A grades in five A-levels at All Saints’ RC School, York.
Claire, from Osbaldwick, achieved top marks in English literature, German, history, philosophy & ethics and general studies at 17, going on to study a four-year modern languages course at Somerville College, Oxford University, specialising in German.
Did you know too?
CLAIRE Morley will reunite with Henry V director Maggie Smales to be her assistant director for York Shakespeare Project’s spring production of The Taming Of The Shrew.
“Make Love Not War,” reads the invitation to Maggie’s 1970 setting of Shakespeare’s problematic comedy. “As they emerge from the post-Second World War greyness, the baby boomers are growing up, primed and ready to do their own thing.
“A psychedelic world is opening up, promising peace, love and equality. Kate was born, born to be wild. She wants a voice of her own. The Times They Are A’Changin’ and the old order is dead. Or is it? Find out in The Taming Of The Shrew, Shakespeare’s controversial battle of the sexes.”
York Shakespeare Project’s The Taming Of The Shrew runs at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, from April 23 to 27, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.