Natalie Casey made her name on TV shows including teen soap Hollyoaks and sitcom Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, but on stage is where you’re more likely to find her these days.
No stranger to the Playhouse, she returns this week as part of the formidable ensemble cast of Things I Know To Be True, the latest work by acclaimed physical theatre company Frantic Assembly.
The new play by Andrew Bovell tells the story of a family and marriage through the eyes of four grown siblings, struggling to define themselves beyond their parents’ love and expectations. Produced in conjunction with the State Theatre Company of South Australia, it has been performed over there but is currently on its first UK tour after opening at the Lyric Hammersmith. Casey plays the eldest daughter, Pip, a mother of two who is trying to decide what she wants out of life. The cast includes Imogen Stubbs and Ewan Stewart.
“I’ve never done anything like this before, and that’s why I wanted to be involved with Frantic Assembly. It’s amazing – the stuff they put on is ridiculous!” she says. “And I wanted to do something that wasn’t a ‘’binary’ experience. It’s the first time the play has been done in the UK and Europe – and it’s really nice to do something new. I did Abigail’s Party – a million years ago… and as it’s very well established, people want to experience it a certain way. This time it’s nice to be given such freedom.”
Frantic Assembly are known for the physicality and movement in their work. More than just a straightforward melodrama, Things I Know To Be True incorporates a more surreal visual experience.
Casey explains: “Andrew [Bovell]’s writing is very lyrical and it lends itself to poetic movement. From a personal point of view it’s been taxing – having to warm up, lifting people, we’ve been doing circuit training to get our strength up – it’s something more like sport than dance. It’s a very complicated show, movement-wise, and it’s good that going on tour gives it a fresh perspective too.
“Thank the Lord we’ve all got on as well as we do. It’s a very serious piece and we have to do it justice . I’m knackered doing it, physically and mentally. But it’s an honour to be on stage performing it. And yeah, some nights it’s still ‘bloody hell, it’s Imogen Stubbs! And Ewan Stewart who was in Titanic!’ But it is a skill of the director in casting people who are brilliant and who will work together as a team, and Scott [Graham] is just an amazing man.”
Best known for her comedy roles as well as musical theatre chops, it’s a chance to see her take on a new kind of part. “I just think I like to try a bit of everything. And maybe I do lean towards stuff that has a dreamlike quality. I like the whimsy. Everything whimsical.”
Casey lived in the city in her Hollyoaks days (she played Carol Groves in the early days of the soap, and left in 2000), and has returned to the Liverpool stage in productions including 9 to 5 at the Empire and the Playhouse’s 2014 Christmas show, Sex and the Three Day Week. The trailer of Things I Know To Be True (below) has somewhat of a feel of the excellent Constellations, performed there in 2015 – perhaps the dream-like quality Casey describes, with a modernity that looks as if it will be striking under that Victorian proscenium arch. She is looking forward to it, as well as heading back to Liverpool (“one of the greatest cities in the world, there’s no point beating around the bush”, she says without prompt).
“It will be stunning in the Playhouse theatre, it will be beautiful,” she adds. “The play really touches people, and that’s not just to do with the writing, the acting, the movement…it’s to do with the design, it’s stunning, the whole thing. It’s really an honour to be part of. This feels like a very special thing to be part of. I know that makes me sound like a wanker but it is.”
Things I Know to Be True is on at the Liverpool Playhouse from November 2 to 5. For tickets and more information, visit their website.