New comedy takes its cue from Wiganers

From left to right  Actors Tracy Gabbitas and Jennifer Banks as supermarket shelf stackers Tracey and Donna in Strife In A Northern Town
From left to right Actors Tracy Gabbitas and Jennifer Banks as supermarket shelf stackers Tracey and Donna in Strife In A Northern Town

A hilarious new two-woman comedy show featuring characters inspired by Wiganers makes its debut at this year’s Women In Comedy festival in Manchester.

And the Northern-set comedy is aiming to buck the perceived class crisis in the performing arts, with a working class script, writer, actors and producer.

Strife In A Northern Town is the tale of the inhabitants of a nameless working class city – and their plight at the hands of a corrupt local council.

“I originally wrote the script when I returned to my home town of Bradford a few years ago and I was angry with how the local government had let it slide so far into decline,” says actor, producer and writer of the show Jennifer Banks.

“So this was really my pop at them, but in a funny way, with an array of comedy characters inspired by family, friends and colleagues from both sides of the Pennines.

“When I started writing the show I did a few improvisations with an actor friend from Wigan, who was working in a supermarket there. She told me loads of hilarious stories about her colleagues and two of them made it into the script! So that’s why it’s a nameless city – they’re characters you’d recognise from any town in the North.”

Being by, for and about working class people, Jennifer sees the shows as her own small way to help redress the current class crisis in theatre. The Labour party’s recent inquiry into access and diversity in the performing arts found that it’s dominated by people from well-off backgrounds – and it’s something actors such as Christopher Eccleston and Julie Walters have been very vocal in pointing out too.

The script was also recently submitted to the Your Voice, Your Story new writing scheme at Hat Trick productions – makers of Father Ted, Drop the Dead Donkey and Whose Line Is It Anyway? “They like it! And it’s through to the second stage of the selection process,” says Jennifer.

“If it goes further it could eventually be turned into a taster tape for broadcasters, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Alongside Jennifer, Strife In A Northern Town stars Manchester-based actor Tracy Gabbitas.

“There are loads of quick scene and character changes – and we both play half a dozen roles each. There’s Donna and Tracey who work at the local supermarket. Donna hates customers but Tracey loves them, a bit too much,” says Jennifer.

“Then there’s star-crossed lovers Kay and Val. Val loves her pooches but Kay’s got a dog phobia, an allergy to cheese and a ranty, armchair-bound mother, Maureen – who hates Clare Balding.”

The play is on October 26 and 27, 6.45pm to 8pm, at Gulliver’s Ballroom, Oldham Street, Manchester, as part of the Women In Comedy Festival. Tickets: £6 (£4 concessions) at www.womenincomedy.co.uk