Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Borrowers and Beans; THEATRE Playing the Feisty Arrietty in a Lavish New Production of the Borrowers Is a Dream Come True for Frances McNamee, as She Tells Tamzin Lewis

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Borrowers and Beans; THEATRE Playing the Feisty Arrietty in a Lavish New Production of the Borrowers Is a Dream Come True for Frances McNamee, as She Tells Tamzin Lewis

Article excerpt

Byline: Tamzin Lewis

What teenager doesn't dream of breaking out of their mundane existence and exploring the world on their own terms? It's no surprise then that author Mary Norton's 1952 creation Arrietty has stood the test of time while The Borrowers story continues to be updated on film and TV.

Northern Stage artistic director Erica Whyman has chosen the tale of the little people who live underneath floorboards, as her last show, before moving on to the Royal Shakespeare Company. Being picked to play the spirited Arrrietty Clock, who knows that you can be small and mighty, is a big break for County Durham-born Frances McNamee.

She says: "This is the highlight of my career and my biggest role yet. It encompasses singing and dancing and I have fallen in love with the character which is everything you want in a part.

"Arrietty is a tom boy longing to escape and explore. I'm a good 10 years older than Arrietty so I hope I can pull it off. But she reminds me of how I was when I was 14. I was longing to be free and go out into the world. There is something of that in every teenager." Frances, 24, read The Borrowers as a young girl but didn't want to get "bogged down" in rereading the original series of five books. She says: "The show is set in the North East in 1899 and we are doing the stage play not trying to perform the books. I didn't know whether to go back and study the books as this adaptation is a separate entity. Not everyone will have read the books so you have to strike the right balance."

Frances grew up in Murton and fell in love with musicals during her time as a member of her school Gilbert and Sullivan operatic society.

"It was an all-girls school so I ended up playing men for the first five years of my amateur stage career," she says. "They were often the better parts, and funnier than the girls' roles, who could be a bit wet."

As a member of amateur dramatic groups Frances also participated in The Boyfriend, Les Miserables, My Fair Lady. At the age of 17, Frances was asked to audition for and appeared in the ensemble for the 20th anniversary gala performance of Les Miserables at Shaftesbury Theatre in London's West End. …

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