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Actress Sue Jenkins on coming home to Merseyside with Cuckoo – and taking a city tour on an open top bus

9 months ago

Actress Sue Jenkins on coming home to Merseyside with Cuckoo – and taking a city tour on an open top bus

Corrie and Brookside star Sue Jenkins was always looking forward to bringing her new play, Cuckoo, to Liverpool after six weeks in the West End.

“London was terrific,” says Sue. “But we had always said it would be great to bring it ‘home’ – and it is.

“The response to the play has been honestly overwhelming, it’s just fantastic.”

And there are other plusses to bringing herself back home. Scouse actress Sue smiles: “It’s nice to be back in the city and to see all the changes.

“It’s a long time since I have worked in Liverpool, or visited – I think the last time was when I was at the Empire with The Vagina Monologues in 2009 – and next week I’m going on an open top bus and doing The Beatles tour with my friend from school who I met when we were 11.

“I’m excited about going back to the Albert Dock.”

And she adds: “I’m staying in Liverpool and so many people have touched base who I’ve not seen for years, and it’s really nice.

“I’ve missed the people, because they are so incredibly friendly. Don’t get me wrong, you meet nice people everywhere but there’s an overwhelming welcome when you come to Liverpool for everybody, not just their own.  People just say hello and if you smile, they smile back.

“And of course, there’s the sense of humour, which is a bonus with this play.”

‘This’ play is Cuckoo which is on at the Everyman Theatre until September 23.

Sue in rehearsals for Cuckoo

Set in Birkenhead by writer Michael Wynne, it focuses on the challenges faced by three generations of one family living under the same roof as they navigate modern life in an increasingly uncertain world.

“We knew when we came to Liverpool they’d get every single line, they’d understand the references,” says Sue, 65. “But that’s not to say it’s not a play for all places, because it is.

“People say it’s incredibly real, that it’s like watching their own family:  you’ve got the mum, which is me (Doreen), two daughters and one of them has a daughter. There are no spoilers in the sense of saying that, from pretty early on, we realise that the teenage daughter has got some problems.

“But it’s about family, it’s about communication, and it’s about how our phones – which we’re always on – have got in the way of that communication. How it’s accepted people just sit with their phones and don’t talk.

“Lots of issues are dealt with which makes you wonder if it’s going to be serious.”

But Sue adds: “It’s laugh out loud hysterical comedy, but it’s a dark comedy. It’s about anxieties that come from too much social media, there’s an underlying thought-provoking theme.

“You’ll have a great evening and it stays with you and gives you a lot think about after, and that gives you value for money.”

Cuckoo - Everyman - Sue Jenkins - The Guide Liverpool

Sue says she didn’t think she was like the matriarch she plays until her son, actor Richard Fleeshman – Craig Harris in Corrie and currently filming TV show, The Ark – went to watch and told her how, like Doreen, she gets excited when she sells something on eBay.

“But I do identify with being a mum of grown-up children, and her great love of her kids.” (Sue is married to actor David Fleeshman and daughters Emily and Rosie are also in the business, Rosie has written a one-woman play and Emily co-runs the family’s acting school). “It was always important to me to be there.”

The cast is incredibly close too and has bonded which creates a realism within the play, says Sue: “We insisted on sharing a dressing room even though there’s a wealth of choice backstage at the Everyman. We love the closeness and the chat, and the prep. It’s lovely to work with fellow actors who are equally conscientious.”

And she is enjoying working at the Everyman for the first time since its refurbishment 12 years ago: “Back stage is phenomenal, and it’s a beautiful space, a gorgeous theatre, and everyone has been so brilliant to work with.”

Sue has had an incredibly successful TV career, not least as barmaid Gloria Todd in Coronation Street and, of course, as Jackie Corkhill in Brookside which she’s never surprised has calls for a return: “It was so ahead of its time, it wasn’t like all the other soaps.

“Who would have thought when there was a pandemic on the close that that would be Covid years later? It had the first lesbian kiss, and so many other brave storylines.”

But she has also enjoyed a still-thriving theatre career, both as an actor and, for more than a decade, as a director: “And I love both.

“Whatever I’m doing I throw everything into it.”

Currently that’s Cuckoo which Sue is urging everyone to see: “It’s great writing and a great story, and it’s laugh-out-loud comedy with a little bit of darkness.

“It makes you think and you won’t forget it when you leave, and that’s important.”

You can book tickets for Cuckoo at the Everyman here. The show runs until Saturday 23 September 2023.

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