THERE is no getting away from it, Eva Pope freely admits, the character of Helen she plays in A Taste of Honey is “a nightmare mum”.
Shelagh Delaney’s play follows spirited teenager Jo as she rebels against the constraints of working class Salford in the late Fifties. Central to it is her relationship with her mother who abandons her to go off with her new fancy man.
“I had seen the play before and thought she was an obnoxious character but I think there is more to her than that,” says the former Coronation Street and Waterloo Road star. “I want to show all sides of her, the weaknesses and the vulnerability as well as the showiness and the brashness – and the semi-prostitute that she is,” she adds with a laugh.
“She has been kicked out of the marital home because she had an affair. She was shunned by the community and has had to find a way of living. The only way has been a sort of prostitution. She finds a man who falls for her and understands her. She hopes they will develop more and she has to flit from Manchester.
“She is 40 and has been struggling for 16 years to bring up this child. Helen has come to the point where she says I want something for me not Jo. She thinks she has found it but the audience can see from the start where it’s going.”
It’s a play written and set 50 years ago, so is there much she can draw on from her own life?
“There are so many things in this play that mirror yourself,” she insists. “My attitude towards taking a role, even someone who drinks a lot and is a semi-prostitute, that there is something of yourself in there. I can use my imagination to understand people and there are always keys to understanding people’s characters in your own life.”
The intensity of the mother-daughter relationship for a start, having got a 16-year-old of her own, and the tensions that can arise, especially around GCSE time, she says ruefully.
And they have in common being single mothers. Since moving back up North from London the actor who has a string of TV credits (most recently in Law and Order UK, Casualty and Moving On), has fitted her career around parental commitments. “Voiceovers have kept me going,” she says and only the previous night to the interview there was an episode of Dispatches on Channel 4 she narrated.
She may hail from Wigan, she says, but she can do a posh voice, if needed, as one of her best known TV roles, Rachel Mason, head teacher in Waterloo Road, attests.
A Taste of Honey starts previewing at the Crucible Theatre tonight (October 25) and continues until November 17.