Young Wigan actor bids for stage breakthrough

Francesca in action
Francesca in action
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A young Wigan actor is hoping for a springboard to stardom after landing her biggest role yet in a homegrown musical premiere.

Francesca Fazackerley successfully auditioned for a part in Beyond Wigan Pier, a new show created by Ince musician Alan Gregory about George Orwell’s famous visit to the town.

Alan Gregory and his team promote the new musical

Alan Gregory and his team promote the new musical

The talented 12-year-old’s achievement in joining the cast is all the more impressive as she has battled against anxiety and panic attacks for years.

The St John Fisher RC High School pupil says she is most excited about sharing a stage at The Edge near Wigan Pier with Olivia Garcia, whose singing has already stunned TV viewers across the country.

Francesca, who is also from Ince, said: “I’m really excited to be singing in Beyond Wigan Pier with an X Factor star. I want to be an actress when I’m older so I hope this will help me with my dream.”

Francesca will play a young member of a Wigan family who are on stage early on in the production and are spotted by the iconic author as he arrives in the borough.

Olivia Garcia

Olivia Garcia

She has been keen on singing and acting since the age of three and is part of Burn Youth Theatre, a drama group which is based at The Old Courts.

However, as proud mum Louise explains, she has also had to battle severe personal problems which began with a shocking choking incident when her windpipe became blocked by a grape.

Louise said: “It was absolutely terrifying. I laid her face down in my lap and slapped her back but the grape wouldn’t come up.

“She turned blue and I thought she was going to die. As a single parent there was no-one else in the house to call for help. I tried the Heimlich manoeuvre which I’d seen on films and finally the grape came out.

“People think this is only something to be worried about for small children but it can happen to older children too.”

This triggered several difficult years for Francesca which caused a great deal of concern for her family, friends and teachers at St Mary and St John’s Primary School in Swinley.

Louise expressed her delight at how well she is now doing putting her experiences behind her and pursuing her dream of eventually making it in the arts.

She said: “We’re really proud of how Francesca has dealt with her bouts of anxiety. She’s been able to openly talk about her feelings, used all the techniques we could find on the internet and pushed herself outside of her comfort zone so many times.

“She’s settled in really well at high school and the place she is most comfortable is on the stage. Singing, acting and dancing make her feel really happy and it’s the one place her anxiety has never touched.”

Beyond Wigan Pier will be her biggest role to date by far, though she has previously auditioned for TV soap Hollyoaks and the blockbuster Harry Potter movie franchise.

She describes herself as a massive fan of JK Rowling’s extraordinarily-successful books about witchcraft and wizardry and even pens Harry Potter fan fiction in her spare time, with one of her works being published online.She also enjoys series such as The Maze Runner and Hunger Games.

The premiere of Beyond Wigan Pier is on April 27 and those who will appear on stage include Richard Blair, the author’s son, taking on a narrator’s role.