A fun but forthright play all about boobs is to make its debut in Warrington – inspired by a family’s own experiences of cancer.
Rae Bell’s Identities, made with Close to Home Productions in collaboration with a group of north west women, will be performed at Pyramid Arts Centre on 28 and 29 October as part of Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival.
It aims to break down the taboos around talking about breast cancer and the invisible barriers that stop people taking charge of their own health.
The former Lymm High School and Sir John Deane’s student was just 13 when her mum Marion was diagnosed with the disease and will always remember how frightening and out of the blue that was.
Rae’s mum thankfully got the all clear about 12 years ago but it was not long after she was inspired to write a play about the subject that she had her own health scare.
She said: “I found a lump on my right breast and realised how terrifying that is. I kind of had to go through that whole process of going to the doctor and then going to the breast clinic and realised there’s not that much information out there for young people.
“You’re told breast cancer is something that can happen when you’re older but my mum was 35. So the show is important to me as I want to spread awareness for young people. Not just for women, for anyone.”
Identities, which is supported by Arts Council England, Culture Warrington and Prevent Breast Cancer, centres around one fictional character, Lucy, but it was written after hearing real tales from multiple people with lived experience of breast cancer with the aim of creating a story that is authentic.
Rae added: “It’s been around two years in the making. We’ve spoken to lots of women around the north west who have had breast cancer but also doctors and nurses involved in their care and treatment, and we’ve used all that information to create this narrative we’re exploring in the play.
“I’ve loved developing the production at Pyramid because I grew up in Warrington.”
The subject may be heavy but the play certainly is not. Taking an episodic format – jumping to different times in Lucy’s life – it is described as a comedy that carries a message.
Rae said: “The whole show is a comedy and it’s silly and it’s daft but actually these people who have been through breast cancer are possibly the most light, fun, courageous, bubbly women you can meet because their experience has given them a new lease of life.
“So actually making it a comedy wasn’t that hard, but it’s also a really good way of telling a story and hopefully doesn’t feel like we’re just shouting at people telling them to be careful. We also don’t want to scare them – we want to give them information in a really relaxed, fun way that hopefully they’ll remember.”
Rae is delighted the play is part of Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival.
She added: “I can’t tell you how important it is to me to bring theatre back to Warrington. Warrington is such an amazing place and it does just need more theatre.
“It needs the type of theatre that people who don’t normally go can come and watch it and go: ‘Oh, cool’. I think this is a great way to showcase that.
“I love being in my hometown and I love being in Pyramid.
“It’s where I did all my GCSE dance exams so it’s great to be back. You don’t realise how many creatives there are in the north west until something brings us all together like this.”
Identities will be performed at Pyramid on Friday and Saturday, 28 and 29 October. Tickets are from £8. Visit https://wcaf.