Mancunian cast members Sonia Hughes, Reuben Johnson and Gurjeet Singh talk about On Corporation Street and their experiences of 15 June 1996.
Have you found working with ANU different from other productions you’ve worked on?
SH: It’s fast and furious.
RJ: It’s been extremely exciting working with ANU and it’s been a totally different experience than what I’m used to. The thing I love most is that we’re creating the piece together, and we really are. Whatever we come up with, that will be the show! The trust between the company, the cast and director has been extraordinary, something you will not always experience as an actor. Most of the time as an actor, the script is already there. In this case every single person has an added responsibility, because before rehearsals start we basically have nothing. It’s impossible for anyone to hide away in the corner. I’ve never limited myself to just being an actor. I write, direct, edit… I consider myself a creator and this process has allowed me to do just that. That is a rarity.
GS: It’s completely different but completely brilliant! That’s all I can say, you have to be part of it to truly understand the rehearsal process. It can be quiet hard to understand at times but you just have to trust ANU’s incredible team and they definitely know what they’re doing!
Do you have any personal memories of 15 June 1996?
RJ: I was six years old when it happened. I remember it being a big deal, it was one of those stories that always passed on afterwards, part of the history. My Mum’s Irish and and I know that side of the family weren’t happy about how this event portrayed Irish people. I also remember the sick jokes people used to tell about it in the playground. The bombing was one of those things I was always aware of but didn’t really think about too much. But I know there was quite a lot of paranoia about places in Manchester being a target for bombs afterwards. I think this event was the catalyst for that fear. I used to work in McDonalds in the Trafford Centre and every other week I’d hear that the Trafford Centre was going to get blown up.
SH: I heard it, I phoned my friend who worked at AVIS in town to check she was alright and she was. Afterwards I think I put the baby bath out in the back garden and my son and my next door neighbour’s children played in it for the rest of the day.
GS: I would have been one or two years old at the time, so I have no memories myself. But my parents told me they had an appointment in town, on the day, which was cancelled! It’s crazy to think that had it not been cancelled, this story would have been a whole lot different!
Has working on this project affected your own thoughts and feelings around the bombing?
GS: It’s weird because prior to this project I hadn’t heard many stories about the bombing. So it was shocking to hear and read about so many personal encounters. But growing up, nowadays you hear about terrorism all the time through social media and the news that, in a bizarre way, I’m kind of used to it. But still it does make me feel sad and angry that it happened to the city I call home. The show doesn’t focus on the terrorism, it focuses on why it happened and the people it affected. Because it affects everyone, no matter of skin colour, race or gender.
RJ: Most importantly it made me think about the bombing more than I ever have. It’s helped me piece a timeline together of the changes in Manchester and made me more aware of the effect it had on the city. It’s part of the heritage and the history of the place and I’m glad I got a chance to explore this. It’s important.
SH: I have probably thought more about the victims than I ever have before. I think my feelings before was that it was a legitimate action in a war.
Through the creative process, have you discovered new things about Manchester or its people?
RJ: I wouldn’t say I’ve discovered new things about Manchester, but it’s reaffirmed to me the great spirit this city has and always will have.
GS: During discussions we’ve had as a group about Manchester then and now, I’d definitely say the city has gotten bigger and shinier, but they’re just buildings. And of course people change with the times, but I think what will always be there is that Manchester spirit! It’s hard to describe but it’s there.
On Corporation Street continues at HOME until Sat 25 Jun. To find out more and book tickets, head here.
HOME Digital in association with Virgin Media Business