Blue Merrick hails Philip Meeks’ Edith in the Dark script

Blue Merrick in Philp Meeks' Edith in the Dark.
Blue Merrick in Philp Meeks' Edith in the Dark.
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Interview by Graham Chalmers

The lead actress in one of Harrogate Theatre’s most important productions for years has praised the playwright behind one of the scariest shows ever to run in town.

After a hit run last December in the theatre’s cosy studio, award-winning playwright Philip Meeks’ Edith in the Dark has now been given an upgrade to the main auditorium this week.

Running until Saturday, March 14, lead actress Blue Merrick of occasional Coronation Street fame says the success of this Victorian Gothic horror is down to Meeks’ script.

Blue said: “It’s such a joy to work with such a great script. Philip has such a wonderfully poetic turn of phrase but can conjur up such horrific images, too.

“He certainly keeps you on your toes. The play allows you to give yourself over to the thrill of being terrified but in a safe way.”

Inspired by the chilling tales of writer E.Nesbit, an author best known for writing children’s classic The Railway Children, Edith in the Dark is a clever portmanteau of ghost stories within a story with the writer herself as the central character.

Despite being a strong-willed figure, Nesbit was forced by the strictures of Victorian morality to live something of a double life, despite being a successful author.

Blue, who has a lengthy CV of stage and screen performances to her name, said: “Edith’s life was a hot bed of passion yet she had to hide beneath a veneer of respectability. She had a passionate affair with George Bernard Shaw, possibly in retaliation for her husband’s regular philandering.

“As a woman she couldn’t talk about that in public but she could write her stories of deception and mystery.”

This charming actress, who has performed in everything over the years from Coronation Street to The Marriage of Figaro andThe Forsyte Saga, said she was excited to be back with the show soon - and on the big stage this time.

“We’ve tried to keep the intimacy of the show but it’s nice to be able to do it on a bigger stage. It give us the chance to give more space to E.Nesbit’s stories.

“I’m excited to be back. We all enjoy having a good fright”

Lancashire-born with piercing blue eyes and, for this role at least, striking white hair, Merrick is joinedc in the cast by Patrick Neyman as the handsome stranger My Guasto, while Nicky Goldie takes on the part of loyal but comically drunken housekeeper Biddy Thricefold.

Blue said: “I always think when you’re doing something for the second time it has to be a but different. Having a new cast makes the show special all over again.”

One thing remains unchanged in the new run of Edith in the Dark – it’s Blue who is in charge on stage, a role she is accustomed to after regular appearances as the registrar at weddings in Coronation Street.

At the mention of that, this charming actress who has performed in everything over the years from The Marriage of Figaro to The Forsyte Saga, laughs.

“I’m a complete jinx in Coronation Street. Whenever I marry anyone, within six months they either end up in the canal or run off with someone else!”

As for her name Blue, I ask her if it’s her real surname or whether it’s merely a stage name.

There’s an eternity of silence then a mild chuckle.

She eventually replies simply:“I can’t give all my secrets away.”

Tickets are available on 01423 502116 or at www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk