Frances Barber is to star in a new production of Shane Cullinan’s musical drama The Pietà at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester in October.
She will play a woman devastated by the loss of her son to street crime, set in modern-day Manchester but inspired by the moment when Christ’s body was placed in his mother’s arms.
The show at the Royal Northern College of Music on Monday 16 October at 8pm, will also feature award-winning soprano Claire O’Brien and celebrated cor anglaisist Jessica Mogridge, who are both from Manchester. They will be accompanied by a 25-strong string orchestra, The Stamford Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Davey.
Cullinan, who is also from Manchester, is a composer of music across TV, film and theatre. He is the founder and writer for the orchestral collective Tonic Fold, commercially releasing five studio albums working with a diverse roster of artists from David McAlmont and Rachel Tucker to Kathy Burke.
Barber’s extensive career in film, TV and theatre has most recently included Madame Rubinstein at London’s Park Theatre and the all-female Julius Caesar at the Donmar Warehouse in Lonodn and St Ann’s Warehouse in New York City.
She said: “When I was initially approached I thought it was very unlikely that any man — let alone someone this young – could capture the feelings of a mother going through a bereavement. And then I read it and I couldn’t get over it. I still can’t. I think it’s absolutely extraordinary. It’s incredibly uplifting. Shane is a genius.”
Cullinan added: “While ultimately the story is about a mother finding her son lying dead in the street, the focus of the performance is the mother examining key moments of her son’s life and their relationship. A lot of the performance is very positive. I’m thrilled for this to be performed in my home city where the narrative is based.”