The hero of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, autistic teenager Christopher, forms an unlikely friendship with elderly neighbour Mrs Alexander.
“She connects with Christopher more than anyone else,” explains Roberta Kerr who is playing her on stage. “She’s possibly lonely, but not needy lonely. She’s just more open and generous.”
Christopher’s condition is something with which the actress was familiar. “My cousin’s daughter – from Sheffield actually – works with autistic children while doing her PhD in London and my sister is a special needs teacher who works with a group of autistic children .
“And I do teach myself as well where we get students with conditions. Of course when I was at school we didn’t know about autism or dyslexia or anything like that. I have a friend with a child who has Asperger’s too. So I haven’t just come to this fresh.
“I’m loving that aspect because it’s not just born on froth, there’s something there and I remember reading Curious Incident when the book first came out and thought, ‘my god this is required reading’.”
Roberta Kerr is best remembered as Wendy Crozier on Coronation Street, a significant role as the person who broke up the Barlow marriage. “So they say, but I had never watched it before and didn’t really know why they made such a song and dance about it,” she says.
“But it’s always fun to play a femme fatale or a baddie,” she observes. She even managed to play one in The Archers by the name of Mo Travis. “She turned out to be a sociopath,” she laughs. “When Susan Carter was in prison she tries to get a relationship going with Neil Carter.”
Touring to Sheffield will enable Roberta to hook up with cousins, one who works with refugees for City of Sanctuary and the other a headteacher.
The Curious Incident continues at the Lyceum until September 26.