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Joe's Liverpool roots gave him room to grow

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: July 01, 2014

By Lynne Brighouse

Joe McGann and  Shobna Gulati are appearing in April in Paris at Derby Theatre.

Joe McGann and Shobna Gulati are appearing in April in Paris at Derby Theatre.

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A CLASSIC John Godber tale has arrived on the Derby stage with a reworked script tailored for a 2014 audience.

Billed as a bitter-sweet comedy, April In Paris is a portrayal of a middle-aged couple who re-ignite their failing relationship while taking a holiday in the French capital city.

Joe McGann takes the role of husband Al and says that Godber's updated script is now very tightly written, while still retaining its best-loved qualities – it is funny, heart-warming, insightful and very true to life.

"There isn't a wasted word in it, it's an extremely well-observed portrayal of married life," laughs Joe. "I think you will see lots of couples in the audience nudging each other and saying 'that's you, that is'."

Joe brings several decades of acting experience to the role, having been involved in the performing arts for more than 40 years. Raised in Liverpool with his three brothers – Paul, Mark and Stephen, all well-established TV and stage performers – Joe believes that they grew up in an extraordinarily creative time in the city, during which they were just as likely to have become musicians, singers, footballers, or even chess players, as actors.

"Everything was on our doorstep," explains Joe.

"We were inner-city kids but we always had the benefit of these places and people which offered all kinds of activities. We were immersed in theatre and singing in international choirs from the age of 12.

"We grew up in the 60s and 70s and it was an amazingly creative period, for loads of different reasons. The Beatles for one, but also the influx of Irish families like our own. All our mates would go – without any embarrassment at all – straight from the football dressing room following a game into the theatre dressing room. It wasn't one of those cities where you would be ridiculed for doing that, it was all fine.

"And it still is like that in places. I've just finished a job at the Everyman Theatre.''

Joe came through the Everyman Theatre youth theatre in Liverpool and learned on the job rather than through attending drama schools and colleges.

He adds: "There was so much coming out of Liverpool – the Beatles, the Liverpool Poets, some great theatre companies with actors like Julie Walters, writers like Alan Bleasdale and Willy Russell – and we got to see it from the inside.

"I went to London at 17 with high expectations until I realised that people my age down there just didn't have the opportunity to do half of what I'd done. We were so lucky."

Joe has embraced versatility in his career, appearing on both TV and stage in everything from drama and musicals to comedy and Shakespeare. It is a career he loves.

Joe will be joined on stage by Dinner Ladies and Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati.

April In Paris continues at Derby Theatre until July 12. Tickets are £10.50 to £25.50, available on 01332 593939 or online at www.derbytheatre.co.uk

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