Niamh Cusack - At home in the North West

PUBLISHED: 09:14 02 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:47 20 February 2013

With Jane Danson and Martin Shaw in Always and Everyone

With Jane Danson and Martin Shaw in Always and Everyone

Niamh Cusack is from a great acting dynasty, yet Janet Reeder enjoys a down-to-earth heart to heart with a performer who's very at home in this area

When an actor says they love the North West, theres always the sneaking suspicion theyre basing their affections on fleeting glimpses of smart bars, snazzy shops and nights out in the infamous after-hours hang-out the Press Club, not so Niamh Cusack.

Niamh (its Gaelic and pronounced Neev) spent three years living in Cheshire and reveals that she and husband actor Finbar Lynch were so happy that they were torn about quitting the area for London.

We lived in a house in Mottram St Andrew and it was just an idyllic time, she recalls, while preparing for her role as Catherine in the enthralling new play Andersens English that comes to Manchesters Library Theatre this month.

We lived in a Victorian house with a nice little garden. It wasnt huge and our son Callum went to Mottram St Andrew primary school and I worked in Manchester. First of all I was at the Royal Exchange Theatre and then I did lots of parts for ITV at Granada, I did a long-running series Always and Everyone.

I loved it and we were going to move up properly. We were really torn whether or not to but because we are both actors and were Irish we decided wed be doing too much travelling.
It was as normal as life gets for a woman from an Irish dynasty of actors. Shes the daughter of the late Cyril Cusack, sister to Sinead and Sorcha and half sister to Catherine Cusack and her husband, who she met on the job so to speak. We met on a play. The Three Sisters. So predictable!

And when not treading the boards or spending nights in the theatre thered be evenings spent at home.

We used to go a lot to Est,Est,Est in Alderley Edge because Callum could make his own pizza, she recollects.

We felt part of the community; we were welcomed into that community. Manchester is quite a happy place to live. Id spend a lot of time at the Cornerhouse and of course, the Royal Exchange and made good friends while I was there.

She reveals shes staying at a friends house in Cheshire while appearing in the play by Costa award-winning The Secret Scripture writer Sebastian Barry. Its based on a true story, about a visit by Fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen to Charles Dickens Gads Hill Place home, which was supposed to be a few days but stretched out into weeks. It follows him as he becomes an unwitting witness to the disintegration of Dickens marriage to his wife Catherine.

It sounds sad. Niamh agrees: It was terribly sad. Not a lot is known about Catherine and what we have to go on is hearsay. One account is that she was fat and lethargic but Andersen liked her and said she was welcoming, very warm. She wasnt terribly beautiful and obviously, shed had ten children so she wasnt as attractive as she had been but in early letters Dickens clearly loved her, there was a lot of affection there. However, once he got rid of her, there was no contact at all. He was quite cold.

It seems that the great writer just turned off his wife, fell out of love and the great tragedy was at the age of 42 she was cast out and banished from the house and from seeing her children until Dickens death.

Its a great older woman role for a 50-year-old but looking 10 years younger actress. However the main reason Niamh took it on was to work with Out of Joint theatre company and Max Stafford Clark.

It just happened to come up and I was well placed to do it. It was serendipity.
As she has got older shes done increasingly more theatre but wont be easily forgotten as Kate Rowan opposite Nick Berry in Heartbeat from 1992-5. For a while they reigned supreme as TVs golden couple.

That was so long ago, she says amazed when its slipped into the conversation
Possibly up north people still remember it but it was 18 years ago. I had a fantastic time for about four years but I didnt go into acting for a regular job. I was quite happy to risk unemployment - and that did indeed occur afterwards.


Andersens English will be at the Library Theatre from March 2nd - 6th. Visit www.librarytheatre.com or telephone the box office on 0161 236 7110.

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