Everybody has things they want to do by the time they’re 30, and actor Stephen Fletcher hasn’t been doing things by halves. It has been a busy year so far and shows no sign of slowing down as he prepares his biggest project to date — brand new Christmas show Mam, I’m ‘Ere!.
Runcorn-born Stephen has been a regular on virtually every Liverpool stage since moving back to the city from London in 2009.
“I’d always wanted to have directed a play when I was 30, and it had been my birthday in March,” he says. Now he’s well on his way to being at the helm of his third production of 2012, and that’s aside from his turn in A Streetcar Named Desire (surely the Playhouse’s production of the year), and having the role of Jesus almost within his grasp on the ITV talent search Superstar.
At the beginning of the year, he set up his own company, Life in Theatre productions. Named for the David Mamet two-hander, he staged A Life in the Theatre with long-time collaborator Andrew Schofield at the Actors Studio in spring. A show about the relationship between an up-and-coming star and a weary stage veteran, its pertinence to those in the business had always struck a chord.
“When I was working in a theatre in London — you know, ripping tickets and crying, I’d seen Patrick Stewart and Joshua Jackson doing A Life in the Theatre. And in many ways it seemed like art imitating life. I love working with Drew and I wanted to be able to give him a proper showcase.”
In keeping with the show’s virtually non-existent budget, the pair rehearsed at home for ten days. Stephen laughs to recall his co-star giving it as much welly in the living room of his flat as he would do on stage, much to the bemusement of the neighbours. The show was a word-of-mouth success and its run was extended.
“I knew I could do it, but always put it on hold for fear of getting a better offer, that call coming in from my agent. It’s been a matter of trusting what you can do is something just as good,” he says.
Stephen had organised every aspect of the production single-handedly, and was running the box office from his mobile phone at the same time as appearing in Streetcar (even while waiting in the wings). Then, on top of everything else, he decided to audition for ITV’s Superstar, the show to find the lead for the new Jesus Christ Superstar arena tour.
He wasn’t especially keen on the talent show format, but a few quirks of fate had convinced him it was worth a punt. He nearly made it down to the final 20 contestants, but conscious of the scenarios the crew were trying to engineer for television — not least of all because his brother Michael was also up for the role — bowed out when he realised he was too exhausted to give a good audition on camera.
Instead, he returned to Liverpool and set about on his second production, teaming up with actress Helen Carter to perform Jason Robert Brown’s romantic musical The Last 5 Years (pictured above).
“I remembered the show from my LIPA days, and it is one of those shows with a cult following,” he says. “I very much wanted it to have an off-Broadway feel, and bring that to Liverpool.”
It was another roaring success at the Actors Studio. And as thoughts turned to Christmas, Stephen could usually rely on involvement in the Royal Court’s festive show. But he found he wasn’t the only one who had not received the call.
It was a sign to go it alone again, and rounding up an impressive cast of well known Liverpool actors, Stephen revived an old idea from years ago — and
Mam, I’m ‘Ere! was born. With Eithne Brown, Andrew Schofield, Paul Duckworth, Helen Carter, Keddy Sutton and Alan Stocks also involved, Stephen plans to stage a family-friendly Christmas show with a disco twist.
It is the first ever long-running Christmas show to be held at the Dome on Renshaw Street, and if it is successful Stephen hopes it is a relationship that could continue.
“Mam is the biggest thing I’ll ever do, because it’s the first time, and I’m writing, directing, producing, finding a venue… but I suppose it’s just upscaling what I’ve learned in the last two shows,” he says.
A potential problem is that Liverpool is a city already flooded with Christmas shows this year. Competition for what is being dubbed behind the scenes ‘the panto war’ — and people’s cash — will be fierce. But Stephen is confident that the fun of Mam (a reversal of the well-known plot of Mama Mia) is unique enough to stand out.
With regards to theatre, Liverpool has “a big fat middle” audience of people that isn’t being catered for, he explains. “They mightn’t want to do a Liverpool-centric show but other theatre might be out of their comfort zone too – I’ve come from that box, all my family is in that box. People who want a good night out, don’t want to be offended, but made to feel welcome and enjoy themselves. It’s a laugh and a night out.”
The show runs from December 7 to January 12, and tickets (all £15 plus fees) are on sale now from:www.lifeintheatre.ticketsource.co.uk/ or 08448700887 (9am-7pm weekdays, and 9am-5pm Saturdays)