‘It’s a great show... we’ve had grannies screaming’

George Critchley, from Wrea Green, who is co-producer of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, coming to Blackpool Grand
George Critchley, from Wrea Green, who is co-producer of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, coming to Blackpool Grand
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George Critchley’s dad is a farmer. So is his oldest brother. So you can imagine the scene when he arrived home one day and announced that he had something important to tell them.

“My brother said ‘you’re going to tell us you’re gay’. I said no, I’m going to be an actor.

“My brother said ‘he’s definitely gay’.”

Since that day many moons ago, when George was about to embark on a drama course at Blackpool and The Fylde College, it’s fair to say the ambitious young actor has definitely had the last laugh.

Now aged 47 he has been in countless productions and the odd bit of TV over the years (Brookside, Where The Heart Is) and is now a producer.

That’s the reason for this interview. George is one of the co-producers of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, comes to Grand Theatre in Blackpool for a week-long run in November.

All his family are coming to see it, including parents Walter and Greta, who still own and run the same farm in Wrea Green that George grew up on.

George, a great bloke to talk to, not least because - unlike some in the acting profession - he has the ability to laugh at himself, became interested in acting in his final year at Kirkham Grammar when he entered a public speaking competition for a laugh.

“A very scary teacher told me I’d better take it seriously.

“She frightened the life out of me so I spent all afternoon in the library working on my speech,” said George. “I was up against all these students going to Oxford or Cambridge but I managed to win.

“The same teacher asked me to be in the school play after that and that’s when I got a real taste for acting.”

He worked in the local Spar in Kirkham to fund a nightschool course in acting and joined several local theatre groups, performing with a young Alfie Boe in Preston Musical Comedy Society’s West Side Story.

“I was always quite sure of myself so I decided to audition for the lead role of Tony,” he recalls. “I remember this Alfie lad, a very quiet young fella with floppy hair, being in the queue in front of me.

“When he opened his mouth he blew everyone away and I thought ‘ah, I don’t think I’ll bother going for the role of Tony any more’.”

Starting off as a Red Coat at Butlins, he slowly forged a career as an actor and moved into producing after coming up with the idea of doing some issue-based theatre in schools.

Next is Seven Brothers, which George is genuinely excited about.

“I hope the people of Blackpool go to see it because - and I’m not just saying this because I’m involved - it is breathtaking.

“The choreography is stunning, done by a woman who has won awards on Broadway, and on the opening night in London we had a standing ovation - it was fantastic.

“The other thing the good folk of Blackpool might like is that the seven brothers are all in remarkably good shape and they all get their torsos out.

“We’ve already had screaming teenagers and screaming grannies in the audience!”

Seven Brothers, which has Helena Blackman in the main female role and Dancing on Ice winner Sam Attwater as the leading male, is on at the Grand Theatre from November 11-16.

Tickets are available now from www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk or the box office on (01253) 743339.