The star and writer of a new dark comedy coming to the stage in Lichfield says the show will give her a chance to take back some control over her own career.
The Enduring Romance of Cathy and Heathcliff comes to the city on Saturday (April 9) as part of the Garrick Introducing programme.
The story of one woman’s obsession with finding her own dashing hero – and discovering love isn’t always what she thought it would be – is the creation of local actor Rebecca Newman.
But while most performers opt for bringing the words of others to life on the stage, the chance to empower her own path is one Rebecca was keen to take.
“I went to drama school and trained as an actor,” she told LichfieldLive. “Ever since then, I’ve been working away on it and had it in the back of my mind to try and put it on myself one day.
“Perhaps it’s because there’s so little control over your own career when you’re an actor – all of your decisions are made by agents or the casting directors who do or don’t want you in their shows.
“Putting on my own production has been about taking control over my career. I’m in charge of this and it’s my creative piece and I’ve been able to make all the decisions.
“It’s felt really nice as has given me the chance to do what I love and what I trained to do, even if it’s not a case of being cast on the West End – I just really wanted to do something on my own terms.”
With just two characters, The Enduring Romance of Cathy and Heathcliff could have been entirely focused on the central love story.
But Rebecca has been keen to ensure the depth of their relationship and the way two people can impact on each other is fully explored.
She said: “It’s a romantic comedy with very dark twisted elements to it.
“It’s about a woman who has an obsession with Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff and believes her ideal man is exactly like him, chaps and all. But then she meets a man who is a banker and is nothing like her ideal man, but she falls in love with him anyway.
“It’s really about her battle with herself and accepting that she’s fallen in love with someone she never intended to. It’s more about idealism. She’s an idealist but has to realise that life isn’t like that.
“The story follows the twists and turns that their lives take. It’s a really sweet little piece and I’m really pleased with it.
“We’ve written music pieces for it too and it’s quite immersive in that sense. It’s got lots of different elements and textures to it.
“When I wrote it I had this image of Kate Bush running around on the moors and thought it was a funny to think of a woman doing that and obsessing about the character of Heathcliff. But the man my Cathy meets is the absolute opposite. He’s all stiff upper lip, well educated and from good middle class stock.
“But it’s so interesting to see how they change each other into better people.”
The Enduring Romance of Cathy and Heathcliff will be performed a week after Lichfield Garrick Youth Theatre’s run of the Green Day musical, American Idiot.
The need to showcase young talent in the city is an opportunity Rebecca knows all too well.
“I’m from Lichfield and grew up in the youth theatre,” she said. “I did lots of shows with them before drama school and I probably would never have gone had to drama school had it not been for the youth theatre.
“They gave me confidence to apply and told me I could do it and was capable of taking on the challenge.
“I’ve come back to Lichfield after being away doing jobs elsewhere over the last couple of years and I’ve been lucky enough to start working at the Garrick too. It’s become so much more for me than just a job as it’s helped me to put this play on I feel very privileged and lucky.”
Rebecca’s play is part of the theatre’s Garrick Introducing series, which aims to showcase the work of emerging performers and writers.
The programme has allowed Lichfield audiences to see new productions designed to broaden their theatrical horizons.
“It’s a great time at the Garrick at the moment with plenty of new and exciting shows,” Rebecca said. “There are things people would never have thought of going to see before. It’s very exciting and different to other venues.
“The Garrick Introducing series has not only given a chance to pieces of theatre that are new and unseen and that the public might be scared to take a chance on, it has also given these works credibility by being endorsed by the theatre. That’s been really helpful as a selling point.”
When the curtain goes up on Saturday, Rebecca’s focus will be about bringing her characters to life.
But she’ll be all too aware of the challenges she’s faced to reach that crucial moment in the journey of her production.
“It’s been a lot of pressure,” she said. “Although there are two of us on stage, in terms of organising everything it’s been just me.
“There’s been a couple of months of hoping it’s all going to go well. There are moments where you wonder why you’re doing it in the first place.
“There have been things like gathering all the props that we don’t always think about as performers. I’ve been freecycling like crazy and going round different houses to get boxes of books. I’ve also had to go on eBay to get a wedding dress as cheaply as possible.
“But I’ve really enjoyed the process overall and I’m very excited now. It’s getting closer and we’re rehearsing every day until Saturday.
“It almost felt like a rush getting everything ready, but now it feels like the whole show is flowing naturally.
“It’s been good fun.”
The Enduring Romance of Cathy and Heathcliff is at the Garrick on Saturday (April 9). Tickets are £12 adults and £8.50 students. To book call 01543 412121 or visit www.lichfieldgarrick.com.