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Interview: Noreen Kershaw
NOREEN Kershaw is living proof that the stage lights of Lancashire shine just as bright as London's West End.
The 57-year-old admits to taking to directing because she is bossy and what better use of her skills than making a living out of telling people what to do.
And she is currently enjoying the "highlight of her career" directing two plays for Bolton Octagon for its 40th anniversary season while making plans to take her latest feature film to the Cannes Film Festival. And all the while highlighting what is good about the north.
Noreen trained at the Manchester Polytechnic School of Theatre, first becoming an actress with her first big break playing the title role in Shirley Valentine in the original production at Liverpool's Everyman Theatre.
But she is most recognised today for playing WPC Phyllis Dobbs in the award winning series, Life On Mars - a part which will be her last acting role in order for her to concentrate on working on the other side of the camera.
The proud Lancashire lass was first known on the small screen for her role as Kathy Roach in Channel 4's Brookside between 1988 and 1990. She also featured prominently in another Liverpool-based television programme, Watching.
Wanting desperately to stay in the north west Noreen also gained parts in dramas based here throughout the 1980s including Black Stuff, Albion Market, Peak Practice and a bit part in Coronation Street.
Noreen said: "I did move to London for a short time because that is what you are lead to believe is what you do when you want to be an actress. But I missed home to much.
"The people just aren't the same down south it's a fact. London is not the centre of the world and its about time the acting business realise that. It's important that we celebrate our northern lives. You do not need to move to London to be successful."
And so after a short spell down south Noreen returned to her roots becoming one of the few people to work both in front and behind the cameras on Coronation Street.
And it was at this time in 1996 when Noreen started to direct the top rated ITV soap Coronation Street, that she felt she had found her way.
For three years Noreen directed the crew on the cobbled streets of Manchester, at first shadowing experienced director, Brian Mills on the occasional show before being promoted to lone directing every day of the week.
Noreen said: "I remember Brian being known for not allowing anyone shadow him so I was very lucky to get the opportunity. They were very kind to me at Corrie and I loved every minute. They taught me a lot.
"I love directing because I'm bossy. I favour it these days to acting also because with directing you can really tell a story whereas with acting you are often just a small part of the big picture.
"My acting days are over, unless another Life On Mars comes along I won't do any more acting."
Following her success on Coronation Street Noreen went on directed episodes of soaps Heartbeat and Emmerdale Farm and more recently, comedy drama, Shameless.
But despite the big names she worked with on the small screen is has been the theatre that has benfited most from Noreen's directing flair, working on countless stage productions across the north west starting from as early as 1985.
And it is back at the theatre where she is currently enjoying "the highlight" of her career as she directs two stage productions, Road, followed by Spring And Port Wine, both by Jim Cartwright. Road is playing now at Bolton's Octagon Theatre, for which Noreen is a patron.
Noreen said: "I was so pleased when I was asked to do the plays especially in the theatre's anniversary year.
"Road is very funny but moving too. The actors I am working with are brilliant.
"They are all from the north too which is just brilliant to me."
Noreen has now moved onto directing feature films, her latest, Act Of Grace, is set to premier at Cannes later this year.
- Road runs until Saturday, March 29 at the Otagon, Bolton. Details from the box office on 01204 520661