Overcoming divorce in new Lancaster play

Polly Lister.
Polly Lister.

The day Polly Lister found out her husband wanted a divorce, she had to appear as Cruella de Vil in a Christmas show.

Two years later, the awardwinning actress takes to the stage once again to tell the story of how she loved and lost.

I Was A Wife is a powerful yet funny one woman play which Polly has penned and will perform at The Dukes in Lancaster from January 28-February 6.

But what’s it like to write and perform scenes from one of the most painful periods of your life?

“Nothing has ever scared me more,” said Polly. “It’s the first time I’ve written a play and the first time I’ve done a one woman show so it’s a real baptism of fire.”

It was while Polly was appearing as the Witch in The Dukes outdoor production of Hansel & Gretel in 2014 that she was persuaded by artistic director Joe Sumsion to pour her emotions into a play.

The result is a show telling the highs of the marriage proposal which came during the run of a Christmas show in Harrogate, the wedding which took place in Keswick while Polly was appearing at Theatre By The Lake, and the lows of being asked for a divorce just months later without being told why.

“Not every divorce is the same but this play is for anyone who has felt injustice because they’re not wanted any more whether that be personally or professionally,” said Polly.

The play, performed in The Round, is set in the various dressing rooms of theatres Polly appeared at during her rollercoaster ride of romance.

It blends songs with storytelling and the kind of quality performance which recently saw Polly win a UK Theatre Award.Since her marriage breakdown, Polly has never been so busy.

“The theatre gods have looked after me. Having to go on stage has been the making of me. It’s given me a purpose and allowed me to function,” she said.

Brought up close to Stratford-upon-Avon, Polly fell in love with theatre when she was taken to a show as a seventh birthday treat and just a year later she played Marta in a production of The Sound of Music.

At 15, she was one of the youngest people to be accepted into the National Youth Theatre and she went on to graduate from Manchester Metropolitan University School of Theatre.

This year sees Polly’s 20th anniversary as a professional actress and a career which has seen her on stage, screen, radio and touring the world.

However, she was ready and willing to give up acting when she got married.

“When I met my husband, I’d never felt so special and knew I wouldn’t want to marry anyone else and that it would be forever. I wanted a family and to be something other than an actress.”

On February 5 from 3pm-5pm, The Dukes also hosts a Writing What You Know workshop featuring Polly and the multi-awardwinning Johnathan Harvey, the writer behind the play and film Beautiful Thing and the TV sitcom Gimme Gimme Gimme.

He’s also on the writing teams for Coronation Street and Shameless. Places 
are limited and cost £25 which includes a ticket to that evening’s performance of I Was A Wife.

To book for I Was A Wife, age guidance 12+, Meet the Makers or the writing workshop, ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or visit www.dukes-lancaster.org.