Spotlight On… Writer, Director and Star of Blast From The Past, Anna-Lisa Maree

Blast From The Past is written  and directed by Anna-Lisa Maree. It is part of Camden Fringe and will be staged at Upstairs At The Gatehouse 16th – 19th August 2016.

Book tickets here:

Anna-Lisa is a talented Writer, Director and an absolutely stunning actress. This is the hat-trick ‘Spotlight On…’ feature for this hard-working girl, and it’s my pleasure to bring you her latest interview to promote her stellar show, Blast From The Past.

Thank you for joining Break A Leg for another interview, Anna-Lisa. So, Blast From The Past is back, with its own run as part of Camden Fringe, what will be different this time in comparison to its maiden voyage at the London Short Play Festival, last year?

The storyline remains the same aside from the fact that the older brother, Nathan now impersonates Cher instead of Alanis Morisette!

I also had to extend the show by half an hour so there are a number of new characters including Lola Playfoot, proprietor of Blackpool’s leading swinger’s hotel, Melanie Cropper, the ultimate Bridezilla and the infamous Mystical Maureen (who used to have a booth on the South Shore until the police shut her down) finally appears in the flesh!

Are there any cast changes?

To quote one of my favourite song lyrics ‘Everything has its season, everything has its time’ – yes there have been cast changes but that is the nature of the business. Judy Buxton will be reprising her role as Julie Tate and I am delighted to welcome on board Anthony Kavanagh, Felicity Dean, Richard Rhodes and Andrew Irvine.

I also have a wonderful multi-talented creative team, Luke Johnson, Charlotte Gorton and Georgia-May Matthews.

You’re making an appearance in it as well as having written it and you’re also the director, do you differentiate between these roles or do they all mingle together?

As a writer I try to give each character naturalistic dialogue with a definite rhythm and tone. However I am always open to other people’s opinions of how improvements can be made. The one aspect of this production that I am truly precious over is the final scene as it is imperative that all tenses used are correct. It is vital for the storytelling that past and present is clearly defined. Although the roles I play are key to the structure of the play they are intentionally small so I can focus on directing. I am also blessed to have an amazing Wingman (Luke Johnson) not only is he a Technical and Stage Management Whizz but he also serves as my third eye in the rehearsal room.

Tell me about the role(s) that you play.

I play two characters Nicole Cox and Kelly-Louise Tate; Nicole is a Liverpudlian beautician who (in 1999) rents one of Julie’s holiday flats and works at Nathan’s salon. She’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier but many of her innocent comments provide much food for thought. Kelly-Lou makes an appearance in the penultimate scene when the action returns to 30th April 2016. She’s the little sister of Nathan and Danny who is constantly referred to but never seen in the flashbacks. We finally get to see her all grown up but there’s definitely no mistaking that she’s a Tate and plays a key role in establishing the progression of time.

Finally, sell the show to me, why should theatre-goers buy a ticket and come to see Blast From The Past?

With a cast that includes a genuine 90s Popstar, a sensational drag artiste and two critically acclaimed actresses need I say more? Well okay – just a little bit!  It’s a chance to re-live (or learn about) all that was lovely and all that was loathsome about the late 90s and it is also a huge education into many areas of people’s everyday life that so many people live in blissful ignorance of. However, it is ultimately a reminder not to judge others until you have walked a mile in their stilettos and to live the life you love because after all none of us are going to get out of this crazy world alive!

Break A Leg wish the whole cast of Blast From The Past a blast of a time and all the luck in the world to Anna-Lisa, you need to see her work to believe her capabilities.


Photo credit: Simon Annand.


Spotlight On… Blast From The Past Star, Andrew Irvine

Blast From The Past is written and directed by Anna-Lisa Maree. It is part of Camden Fringe and will be staged at Upstairs At The Gatehouse 16th – 19th August 2016.

Book tickets here:

Andrew Irvine is appearing as Mark Harrington in Blast From The Past at Upstairs At The Gatehouse, next week. I caught up with Andrew to ask him all about this exciting step back into the 90’s.

Hi Andrew, thanks for talking to Break A Leg. Tell me about Blast From The Past, what can the audience expect?

The audience can expect a very funny and touching comedy/drama set in the late Nineties about a dysfunctional Northern family and their hilarious struggles since moving to Blackpool. However it could shock some people when it revisits a certain event of that era.

Tell me about your character in Blast From The Past, what’s his relationship to the other characters in the show and what’s your impression of him?

My character Mark is best friends with Danny (who famously appeared on Kilroy for being one of the first people in Manchester to be electronically tagged) and is the ‘sensible’ member of the group. He is a bit of a geek who is trying to finish his teacher training while dealing with the madness around him. He is also going through massive problems with his fiancé Melanie.

What was your first reaction to the script?

It’s a very witty and realistic piece of writing (albeit with larger than life characters) that delves into many difficult areas of relationships and family. Anna-Lisa Maree has a great sense of comic timing and understanding of her characters.

I realise you’ve yet to go into rehearsals, but at the moment, have you got a favourite scene or line you can share with me?

There is a scene with Danny’s brother Nathan which suddenly calls into question everything that Mark thought he knew about himself. It contains some great visual comedy and is very touching as well.

Finally, sell the show to me, what would you say to encourage potential audience members to come along?

How far have we come since the late Nineties? It wasn’t that long ago but seems a world away. Come and experience big characters and even bigger situations. Blast From The Past is a Northern comedy that’ll leave you laughing, crying and reaching for your old Spice Girls CDs.

Thanks to Andrew for a great interview, wishing you all the best with the show!

Photo credit: Simon Annand.

What Lies Between Me & Jean ~ Red Gallery, Shoreditch

What Lies Between Me & Jean is a classic comedy piece with many hidden undertones of a serious yet poignant nature. It’s a story about Steven and Lou, on the surface at least. They work together and their working relationship and indeed their relationship as a whole is put under the spotlight in this glorious piece of observational theatre. Steven is a drag artiste and goes by the alias of Jean Pocket. Lou is the put upon, somewhat downtrodden assistant, who is pushing Steven to complete the script for a stage show that is set to change the course of his career. Jean will be brought to a theatre audience and the pair are running through the script for the introduction of the show.

Jean Pocket ‘Stitch Bitch To The Stars’

Both characters are so well rounded that you get a sense of their personalities within the first few minutes. Lou (played by Anna-Lisa Maree) is particular, she is clearly quite irritated by ‘Jean’ (played by Anthony Poore/Tanya Hyde) and her well placed huffs and body language say it all without the aid of the exceedingly well crafted script. Then there’s Steven/Jean, he’s a bit of a diva, a quick-witted, sharp tongued extrovert, but with a vulnerability that shines through, and the vulnerability is shown far more often than at the key moment in the piece. The chemistry between the performers is evident as they bounce the dialogue off one another in, for the most part, a laugh a minute script. When the laughs stop, we see the real characters and that is what Anna-Lisa Maree is so adept at achieving with her work.

Anthony/Tanya as Steven/Jean

When you’re already familiar with a playwright’s work and you’ve seen one of the stars of the show on a previous occasion, pre-conceived ideas are inevitable. Anna-Lisa Maree’s latest short play, contained all of the essentials that I’ve come to expect from her talented mind, but there was a little something extra, this time.

Whether it was the fact that the lady herself was playing the other role in this two-hander? Maybe, for she is as gifted an actress as she is a writer and director, that’s for sure. Casting Anthony Poore aka Tanya Hyde as Jean Pocket, ‘Stitch Bitch to the Stars’ was a bold move, given that he has already created the role of Nathan in her successful play, Blast From The Past. However, she has done this terrific performer a huge favour, because his versatility is clear. Jean (or Steven), couldn’t be more different to Nathan, and what Poore/Hyde has done with the role is to bring out a three dimensional character who pours out every emotion within the short time frame. I’ll point out that he does this in high heels for the majority of the show, too.

This play needs just one further ingredient, make it longer, please!

Photo Credits: Anna-Lisa Maree

What Lies Between Me & Jean ~ Press Release


Starring: Anthony Poore & Anna-Lisa Maree

Written & Directed by: Anna-Lisa Maree

Jean Pocket is the female alter ego of Northern Drag Artiste Steven Saxby who is about to embark on his first one Wo/Man UK Theatre tour “JEAN POCKET – STITCH BITCH TO THE STARS”. Steven may be able to handle a “tanked up lesbian” in the comfort of the clubs on the cabaret circuit but his long suffering stage manager Lou doubts he will ever be ready to unleash ‘Jean’ on the paying public.

Anthony Poore and Anna-Lisa Maree star in What Lies Between Me & Jean

In ‘real life’ Anthony Poore is the award winning drag artiste Tanya Hyde and Anna-Lisa Maree has worked extensively as a Company Stage Manager – this is truly a casting where life imitates art or should that be vice versa in this case?!!

To book tickets visit this link:

Read the exclusive interview with Anna-Lisa Maree, here:

Spotlight On… Writer of What Lies Between Me & Jean, Anna-Lisa Maree

Anna-Lisa Maree or Twinkle as she’s often known, enjoys a varied career both backstage and onstage, her most recent employment in a Stage Management capacity includes ‘The Rise & Fall Of Little Voice’ at the Union Theatre and the UK Tour of ‘Bad Jews’. Anna-Lisa is a great supporter of this blog and more importantly, she’s a talented writer with so much to offer the arts. Her latest play, What Lies Between Me & Jean is on the cusp of appearing at the Red Gallery this July.

I caught up with the theatre fairy for a second interview,  on this occasion, to find out all about her new writing.

Thank you for chatting to Break A Leg again. Tell me about What Lies Between Me & Jean, where did the idea originate from and how long has the writing process taken?

Jean Pocket is the female alter ego of Northern Drag Artiste Steven Saxby who is about to embark on his first one Wo/Man UK Theatre tour “JEAN POCKET – STITCH BITCH TO THE STARS”.

Lou Harper is the Production Stage Manager for the tour, and having taken the job as a favour to a friend ‘ever the professional’ Lou is becoming increasingly exasperated by her challenging artiste and his delaying tactics in actually getting on with the rehearsal process.

Several years ago I collaborated with a London based drag artiste and wrote a show, however for one reason and another much of the material that I had written didn’t quite make the journey from page to stage and the whole production process was certainly a learning curve for us both, We now look back with much hilarity and wisdom, although at the time I think it’s fair to say we both wanted to kill each other! I have subsequently written a play inspired by our experiences and ultimately it is the creative collision of 2 world’s of entertainment; the ability to be able to handle a ‘tanked up lesbian’ with an amusing ad-lib on the cabaret circuit and the discipline required for a scripted theatrical production. Elements of ‘What Lies Between Me & Jean’ had already been written, it was material that I knew at some point would be heard and as with everything now’s the right time.

Describe the writing process to me, how many drafts did you do before you were satisfied with the final product and did the overall picture alter much as you progressed?

This was such an easy piece to write and incredibly cathartic, we live and learn and only once a situation has passed do we fully understand the whys and wherefores of it all. I’ve lived and breathed most of what I write about so my writing process is invariably short and sweet! The only major alteration I have made to this particular script was a reference to a certain actress, at the time the play was originally written back in January 2016 it was a very positive usage of her name but in light of recent press the gag could now be perceived as a ‘dig’ at her and that’s the last thing I would want.

Twinkle wearing one of her many theatrical hats!

You’re playing one of the two roles, will it be an easy transition? From writer to actress?

My job as a writer is done, the script is ‘there’ and I’m now looking forward to totally transforming for the role, with a little help from my friend and wig stylist extraordinaire, Darron Harrold! Although the character is inspired by my ‘real life’ experiences as a Company Stage Manager Lou was always in my mind visually very different. She has been a tough cookie to cast for various reasons and in the end I just thought “many moons ago I was nominated as one of the Critics Choice’s at my Post Graduate Showcase in ‘The Stage’, so with the right wig and costume I myself can make Lou the woman I always envisaged her to be!”

However should there be life for this play after the Red Gallery the powerhouse that is Charlotte Gorton is definitely getting first refusal on the role of Lou, I only crossed paths with her a month ago and have had the pleasure of watching her perform as ‘Mari’ in Little Voice for the entirety of June, she is a truly phenomenal actress and I’d be honoured for her to play the part.

How did you select your co-star? What attributes were you looking for?

I needed someone who could fully comprehend the complexities of Steven’s world and character, the man behind the make-up, the ‘lady’ herself and all that lies in between! Anthony Poore is perhaps better known as the award-winning drag artiste Tanya Hyde, not only is he an accomplished artiste on the cabaret circuit he has also appeared in the West End so has a perfect understanding of the trials and tribulations that both Steven and Lou experience. This will be the third time we have worked together and we will be reuniting again this August when Anthony reprises the role of Nathan Tate in my production of ‘Blast From The Past’, Upstairs At The Gatehouse.

What can the audience expect from the piece?

Laughter, Leopard print and a nod to the Legend that is Lily Savage!

Finally, can I have some words of encouragement for potential audience members? Sell the show to me!

This is a rare insight into what really goes on during the daytime in the wonderful world of a drag artiste, preparing to tread where their high heels have never trod before.

What Lies Between Me and Jean will play at the Red Gallery as part of Milk which is run by Prevalent Grit in association with The New Shoreditch Theatre and The Red Gallery. The aim being to showcase new writing. The show dates and times for Anna-Lisa’s piece are Tuesday 5th July at 19:30, Thursday 7th July at 14:30 and Thursday 7th July at 19:30. A link to the Facebook page for the event is here:

The press release is below, which include a link for booking your tickets!

Blast From The Past ~ Press Release

*** Blast From The Past is BACK! Following great critical acclaim at The London Short Play Festival, last year! A link to my review of the shorter version can be found here… ***



Life is far from grim ‘Up North’, Danny’s a Bad Lad, his Mam’s a tart and his brother dresses in women’s clothes; but life is a roller coaster and all of their lives are about to change forever.

It’s April 1999 and London is calling, so fasten your seat-belts and prepare for fashion faux pas, Brit Pop, the Vegas of The North and London’s West End.

Hold on tight and enjoy the ride, because after all none of us are going to get out of this crazy world alive!

This production sensitively tackles the real life event of the nail bomb attack at the ‘Admiral Duncan’ Pub in Soho.

“..the casting was perfect, a definite triumph, and I’m keen to see more of Anna-Lisa Maree’s work…”

Helen McWilliams – Break A Leg Review

“…the overall design is evocative and engaging with some truly spectacular costumes…”

LGBTQ Arts Review

Written & Directed By: ANNA-LISA MAREE


Smash Hits Award Winner

ANTHONY KAVANAGH (Celebrity Big Brother, The Big Reunion)

Critically acclaimed stage & screen actresses JUDY BUXTON & FELICITY DEAN

Drag Artiste: Richard Rhodes ‘aka Sheila Simmonds


Having premiered at the London Short Play Festival in 2015, BLAST FROM THE PAST is back as an hour long production; introducing brand new characters and a stellar cast!

Show taking place at: Upstairs At The Gatehouse, Highgate Village, LONDON, N6 4DB.

Date Time Ticket Price Concessions

Tuesday 16th August 2016 7.30pm £12 £10

Wednesday 17th August 2016 9.15pm £12 £10

Thursday 18th August 2016 7.30pm £12 £10

Friday 19th August 2016 9.15pm £12 £10

Book Tickets via:

020 8340 3488


Blast From The Past ~ London Short Play Festival 2015

Last year I went to the London Short Play Festival where among others, I had the great pleasure of reviewing Blast From The Past by Anna-Lisa Maree. This year, Anna-Lisa has expanded on the script, added new characters and brings her master-piece to Camden Fringe. Details of how to book tickets and the press release can be found here:

In the meantime, here is the brief review from last year’s shorter version.

Blast from the Past written and directed by Anna-Lisa Maree opened the event, starring ex-Coronation Street star Scott Wright, seasoned television and theatre star Judy Buxton, Anthony Poore and Matthew Jordan Wright. The story centres around the dysfunctional Tate family who are ensconced in their own Blackpool B&B business. With monologues which drew me in and enhanced the story, together with the sensitive tackling of real-life event, the 1999 nail bombing at the Admiral Duncan, this piece could easily work as a full length play. The attention to detail down to the costumes all helped to create the correct atmosphere and tone. The set was simple and effective, the casting was perfect, a definite triumph, and I’m keen to see more of Anna-Lisa Maree’s work.


Spotlight On… Anna-Lisa Maree


*** Spotlight On… Anna-Lisa Maree ***

She’s a multi-talented ‘Theatre Fairy’ and also known as Twinkle 🙂 – Anna-Lisa Maree filled me in on her hopes, dreams and what led her into her varied career.

You’re experienced as an actress, a writer and company stage manager, which one came first and do you have a favourite of the three ‘jobs’?

I performed in my first professional production when I was 8 years old, it was Oliver at York Theatre Royal and little did I know then that Bill Sykes (Andy Serkis) would go onto be a Hollywood superstar! I’m pretty sure that he can’t believe that the youngest girl in the workhouse has become a Company Stage Manager, but as the saying goes ‘that’s showbiz’! My first insight into the world of Stage Management was in the Summer of 1995 when I spent a season in London with the National Youth Theatre.
I then studied for a BA Hons Degree in Stage Management at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, back in the days before it became ‘Royal’ and that was my spring board into the professional backstage world.
In truth I’m a bit of an ‘All Round Theatre Fairy’ as I’ve also worked extensively as a Head of Wardrobe in the West End, and toured nationally and internationally.
As a writer I have written comedy for numerous artistes, as well as having two of my own plays ‘`Casting The Villain Aside’ and ‘Blast From the Past’ in the London Short Play festivals. I was also the first person to ever put an original full scale musical into the Paradise room on Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Ultimately I am so appreciative that I am able have such a diverse career in the industry I love and in the words of Mary Poppins, “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun!”

What are your most memorable moments as an actress, as a writer and as a company stage manager?

As an 8 year old in Oliver I used to insist that before rehearsals or going to the theatre that my Mum made my hair look like Nancy’s. In 1988 having a hairdo that made your head look like a pineapple was the height of cool in my opinion! Ten years later I crossed paths with Nancy once again on a work placement at the New Theatre in Cardiff and confessed all. Linda Dobell was a wonderful actress, director and choreographer. Sadly she is no longer with us but to me she will always remain a childhood inspiration as ‘ the lady who I wanted to be like when I grew up’.

Writing-wise I have written several pieces that I have been proud of my most recent short play Blast From The Past was perhaps the piece that is my personal favourite. It was a pleasure to give a well established actress the opportunity to play a part that she would never ‘normally’ have been considered to play. Transforming the lovely Judy Buxton into a Northern single mother who would not have been out of place as a guest on Jeremy Kyle was perhaps one of the greatest highlights of my career to date!

Finally as a Company Stage Manager it would have to be the rapport I have with younger company members I have so many treasured memories from shows gone by. Currently I am CSM on Panto at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon and I asked our wonderful ‘Twinkle’ and ‘Sparkle’ teams to create their own individual dressing room door signs. I mean, doesn’t every door deserve to be adorned with a sparkly star with the occupants name on it? Well it certainly does ‘on my watch!’

Any particular theatres that you favour and why?

I have toured the UK for so long now that there are numerous theatres that I enjoy returning to time and time again, although if pushed it would have to be the Grand Theatre in Blackpool. On my last visit I happened to mention in passing during Act 1 that I was a bit hungry. I really didn’t expect a crew member to go out in the interval and bring me back a pizza, but they did and for that reason alone the Grand wins first place on my most favourite theatre poll! Oh and incidentally that theatre has a pineapple on the very top of it ….just saying!

Who inspires you as an actress and as a writer?

Without hesitation, on both count it’s Derren Litten (Creator and writer of ITV’s Benidorm) I am truly in awe on his ability to write wonderful comedy and balance it so beautifully with just the right amount of empathy. I have been lucky enough to meet him twice this year and he is such a lovely man . . . . I’m now just waiting for my cameo in the show!

If you weren’t working in ‘show business’ (for want of a better phrase) what do you think you’d be doing?

 I would be a teacher at a Steiner School, it’s an occupation I have seriously considered.

What are your future aspirations?

I tend not to look to far into the future as I like to appreciate the ‘Here and Now’. I would however like to see the shows I have written travel further on their journeys and also create new vehicles for some of my immensely talented friends in the industry.

If you could host a dinner party and invite five guests (alive or dead) who would they be and why?

Heston Blumenthal: having spent all day in the kitchen creating the evening’s wonderful concoctions it would only be fair that he should stay for the party!
Bobby Crush: no one tinkles the ivories quite like Bobby, so that’s the evening’s entertainment taken care of!
Jon Curry: he was a ‘Borrowed Angel’ who returned home far too soon, so any opportunity to see him again would be grasped immediately!
Con O’Neil: I have yet to see him do anything where he isn’t utterly brilliant and what a gorgeous voice, he could make any topic of conversation sound wonderful.
Su Pollard : absolutely no explanation necessary.

Favourite things (give me your first reaction to these questions):

Favourite food?
A black forest Hot Chocolate from Costa – more commonly known in my world as a Panto breakfast!

Favourite play?
Absurd Person Singular

Favourite pantomime?
My life! 

Favourite actor or actress?
I couldn’t possibly answer this question without offending a multitude of incredibly talented people in my life!

Favourite landmark?
Little Marton Mill in Blackpool, everytime I see that windmill I smile because I know I’m only moments away from my ‘spiritual home’.


The London Short Play Festival ~ Edric Theatre, London

Reviewed by Helen McWilliams


The annual London Short Play Festival opened its doors for the second time on Thursday 16th July for a three night residency at the Edric Theatre, part of the London South Bank University. Organised and produced by Millie Thorne and Maria Klockare (both London South Bank University alumni), the success of last year’s festival laid the foundations for the promise of another inspirational evening of new writing for theatre.

‘Blast from the Past’ written and directed by Anna-Lisa Maree opened the event, starring ex-Coronation Street star Scott Wright, seasoned television and theatre star Judy Buxton, Anthony Poore and Matthew Jordan Wright. The story centres around the dysfunctional ‘Tate’ family who are ensconced in their own Blackpool B&B business. With monologues which drew me in and enhanced the story, together with the sensitive tackling of real-life event, the 1999 nail bombing at the ‘Admiral Duncan’, this piece could easily work as a full length play. The attention to detail down to the costumes all helped to create the correct atmosphere and tone. The set was simple and effective, the casting was perfect, a definite triumph, and I’m keen to see more of Anna-Lisa Maree’s work.

‘Fallen Apple’ by Bethan Highgate-Betts which starred Joel Grizzle, takes an interesting look at how an ordinary day running in the park can lead to mystery and intrigue. Hats off to Joel Grizzle for holding the audience’s interest with skilled story telling. I could picture the park, the perverted duck(!) and the pawn shop and I really wanted to know more about the lady who’s apple was broken in half. An excellent unexpected twist from the writer, too. In my opinion, this works very well as a short play, even though I felt that I was left with many unanswered questions.

‘The Way To A Man’s Heart’ by David Weir brings the story of revenge with a deliciously subtle build-up to the moment the ‘victim’ of the fall-out ‘twists the knife’. Beginning as a mundane meeting of two people who are in the process of splitting up and dividing their belongings, including a hefty pay-out from a winning lottery ticket, this is laced with clever and intricate comedy. An engaging two-hander exceedingly well performed by Sasha Ellen and Alec Bernie. This is a good subject for a short play as it demonstrates a snapshot of an estranged couples’ lives and the tale is wrapped up neatly.

‘The Heir’ starring Suzanne Tooley, Shaun Noone and Emma True, is perhaps the most mad-cap of the four plays. Written by Jasmine Arden-Brown, it explores the huge ‘what if’ posed by the suggestion of the ‘end of the world’. It shows an almost believable set-up of how individuals might be dealing with the situation while struggling to survive. The set spoke a thousand words on its own, but it was a ‘laugh out loud’ script which belied the seriousness of the heart of the topic. The writer plans to turn this into a full length play, and I’d be interested to see more as there are many avenues to be explored. Notable chemistry between the actors in this piece, and they kept the dialogue moving at a pace which suited the genre.

What more can I say other than keep your eyes on this link and join us in supporting this event next year.





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