ARTS AND FEATURES ENTERTAINMENT — 23 September 2013

Maureen Nolan as Mrs Johnstone and Sean Jones as Mickey

Maureen Nolan talks openly to Shelley Marsden about her sister Bernie, Blood Brothers and her strong family bond

Not for the first time, Maureen Nolan is on the road with a UK-wide tour of Blood Brothers, Willy Russell’s hit musical about fraternal twins separated at birth, whose different backgrounds take them to opposite ends of the social spectrum.

As Mrs Johnstone, she is the fourth of the famous Nolan sisters to have played the role, after Bernie, Linda and Denise. She came prepared though, having seen the show eighteen times before taking on the celebrated role of the feisty single mum herself.

For Maureen, there’s no better part on the stage with its tragedy, comedy and haunting songs.“For me it has everything – it makes you laugh out loud, it makes you think about your life… There’s a part of it everybody can identify with. It’s Russell’s storyline, he’s a genius really.”

She was worried she’d be the first Nolan sister to audition and not get the part. Once she’d got over that hurdle, there was the pressure to live up to others’ performances: “So many amazing people have played her and so many people (like me!) are completely obsessed with the show; so you don’t want to let anyone down. Every night, you’re hoping they enjoy it as much as they ever have.”

By now it’s a role Maureen knows intimately, but this time she is returning to it as a changed person. The courage her sister Bernie showed in her battle against breast cancer, which she sadly lost back in July, had a profound effect.

She says: “In the last year, Bernie was so ridiculously brave, though she hated that word. She would always say, ‘You have two choices in life, you can slit your wrists or you can get on with it.’ She was amazing, right up till the end.  The weekend before she passed away, she was shuffling along to the pub with her oxygen mask!”

The pain of that loss is still very raw, but Maureen says she is taking a leaf from her sister’s book and fighting through the tough times: “There can’t be much more that people can throw at me that I can’t handle. I think what happened with Bernie has made me less accepting of trivialities, of people’s bitchiness now. It’s made me stronger, and it’s put all the petty little things in life into perspective.”

For the full article, see the Irish World newspaper (issue Sept 21 2013).

See www.kenwright.com for tour dates and tickets.

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