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Iris at the People’s Theatre


The new Season at the People’s Theatre kicks off next month with darkly comic family drama Iris by North-East playwright Alison Carr.

The play sees estranged sisters Julie and Ruby reunited after the death of their mother, a woman who continues to dominate their lives from beyond the grave.

On the night of the funeral, Julie gets off with crime scene cleaner Gerry. Maybe that’ll help? It doesn’t.

Awarded four stars by The Guardian upon its premiere at Newcastle’s Live Theatre in 2016 and described by The Stage as a “fierce but often comic play … bruising yet touching”, Iris is a laugh-out-loud evening of family secrets, broken mirrors and strange bequests.

17-year-old Sarah Mulgrew plays Ruby, a young woman with a potty mouth who is struggling to come to terms with her mam’s death and all of the upheaval it’s bringing with it.

This is Sarah’s second play at the People’s having previously appeared in Animal Farma couple of years ago. Sarah describes Ruby as “grieving, broken and outrageous” and comments “you don’t get often get to play characters like Ruby, there aren’t a lot of roles like this for girls”.

Sarah, who hopes to pursue a career in theatre and the arts, was recently accepted to be part of the Junior Conservatoire at the prestigious Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and will head up to Glasgow to start the course as soon as Iris ends.

Alongside Sarah is Emma Weetch as Ruby’s older sister Julie who reluctantly finds herself back in the house she grew up in.

Emma, who joined the People’s last year, says “Iris is unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Julie has this hard exterior but there’s so much vulnerability and hurt underneath, it’s really interesting to play”.

Completing the trio is Stephen Sharkey as the hapless Gerry, Julie’s one-night stand who keeps coming back!

Stephen has previously performed in the People’s new Studio Theatre, but for Emma and Sarah this is their first time in this intimate new space. Sarah says “the smaller space works so well for the play, it will really feel like the audience are in our house experiencing everything with us”.

For director Sarah Davison, who has previously helmed mostly large cast plays, Iris is a different kind of challenge. But a cast of three means there is time in rehearsals to really explore the characters and their relationships.

Sarah adds “I love the richness in the writing – they are ordinary people and the humour especially feels very real, and possibly very Northern! But there is lyricism and sorrow and a huge heart at the centre of it too. It has been a real treat to work with such brilliant material.” 

The play won Alison the Journal Culture Writer of the YearAward and we are delighted to be bringing it back to the region. Alison’s quirky wit and black humour ensures that for all Iris’s darkness as it explores knotty family dynamics, loss and grief there’s plenty of laughs to be had too. And one or two surprises!


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