Sitting in on Life after Life rehearsals and an interview with cast and crew.

What do you do when you’re seven weeks into your production and you lose your main actor? Well that’s exactly what happened for Likeminded, when the actor playing the character of Jimmy, could no longer continue. 

However, for the play’s writer Ashley Ali, it was an opportunity for the Likeminded Productions team to stick together. 

He said: “We didn’t moan or cry, we adapted to the situation and stuck together, and found Peter, who is incredibly talented.”

This is the second production that the company have put on, a first play for Ashley and a second time directing for Christopher. 

Christopher stressed the importance of passion in production, saying: “Passion overcomes everything, honestly anything is possible when your team is passionate. Losing our main actor seven weeks into rehearsals was a massive blow to us all and for a director this is your worst nightmare, but with a fantastic team behind me we pulled together to get back on track. 

We are putting twice the work in and come 12-13 th October everyone who is coming will see the hard work and effort.”

This play focuses on the different attitudes of two men on their final journey dealing with cancer, with thoughts that most people think to themselves but never say.

That is not the case with Life After Life as the dark subject of cancer and other topics, are not shied away from and are at the forefront of the play. 

Likeminded are not ones to shy away from difficult and hard-hitting issues. Their first play The Man with No Identity touched on suicide, their short-film Unspoken dealt with bullying, self-harm and suicide and the upcoming Mindless deals with the ever-present issue of knife crime.

However, in the breaks from these hard-hitting issues, the humour used in the play also shows a realistic side, and to me, the only way in which Scousers know how to deal with these hard times; humour. 

The general conversational moments in these breaks could be taken from any ward, in any hospital across the city.

I spoke to actors, Peter Durr; who stepped in late-on to play the role of Jimmy, Bob Towers, who was described as the Likeminded Dad, playing the role of Eric, and Caitlin Bradley, who has also taken on the role of assistant director, playing the role of nurse Laura. 

The two actors playing the main characters spoke about the impact that having the main character leave, had on them. Peter, who was brought in to replace the main actor, said: “To get the call was brilliant. Especially the time scale, because I like a bit of pressure! It forces me to get the job done quicker.

“It’s the life of an actor, going from one to another.”

So, how about the man who is acting alongside him?

Bob said: “It was tough losing him because we were just beginning to gel, and he’s such a strong character and he’s a great actor and I was just getting a rapport with him, and then he wasn’t able to continue, so that was difficult.

“But, I knew Pete (Peter Durr) and I’ve worked with him before, so there’s already an automatic rapport, so I don’t have to build a new relationship with him, so it was just going in and starting straight away.

All actors were in agreement that the script dealt with an important topic, with Peter saying: 

“It’s a challenge due to the subject. It’s a touchy subject on everyone’s heart, cancer, so it’s tapping into the fear what we all face, growing old while young and dying.”

Bob: “I like the character of Eric, it’s very close to myself, so I find the lines are natural and come easily to me. In terms of the script and what he’s achieved, is difficult to do. 

“He’s taken a difficult subject and made it palatable for people to understand and accept. So, there’s a nice bit of light humour in it. 

“People are waiting to die, but they’re still finding time to have a joke and be on the light side.”

He also spoke about the company itself and the vibe, making it easy to get involved: “It’s very natural here, you’ve got writers who are more writers than directors but are also crossing that divide of being directors as well.”

This also applies for actors crossing the border into directing as well, like Caitlin who is playing the role of Laura.

She said: “I feel like I always wanted to say something but I felt I couldn’t because I know the director is in control, so now that Chris has given me the assistant director role I feel like I can give my views more.

“With more of an audience view, as a performer watching from the side, I always wonder or think of what the audience will be doing, so I’ve suggested things, such as adding more movement and it seems to work.

“Obviously I’m more involved in the acting part in act two, so were going to see how much I can say and how much I can be told.

“At first, I was so nervous because I didn’t know what Chris, Ashley and Andrew were expecting of me, but now I feel so at ease.”

Life After Life has become the focal point of Likeminded with short film Mindless being pushed back, as well as post production for radio drama One-sided Love, but producer Andrew Smith believes the sacrifices will be worth it!

Get your tickets now for this intense play, filled with heart breaking-ly accurate emotion and dark humour. 

Words by Meg Kay
Photos by Andrew Smith