St Helens playwright’s Edinburgh Fringe award success

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A talented young St Helens playwright is celebrating after scooping an award at the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe.

Julia Cranney’s professional debut Empty Beds won an Eddies prize at the world-famous cultural festival, having already been given a Fringe drama award by a Scottish national newspaper.

The play tells the story of three sisters on a train journey to visit their brother, who has been stranded on the other side of the country due to a lack of available psychiatric hospital beds.

Julia’s writing impressed Edinburgh Fringe audiences and critics with its exploration of mental health issues and the effects cuts to services can have on patients’ families.

The play is now being transferred to the Arcola Theatre in London and Julia, who now lives in the capital, spoke of her delight at her success.

Julia, 24, said: “The Fringe was brilliant. I’ve been as an actor before but it was my first time as an actor and writer.

“It was a play I really cared about and started a lot of important conversations, which was great. We had a lot of laughter and a lot of tears, which is a dream as a writer.

“It’s very naturalistic and it plays out in real time over 50 minutes. You see the sisters in this real-life scenario on the train.

“Winning the Eddie award was not something we had anticipated, and getting a run at the Arcola in London is magic. It’s the type of theatre you really want to be working in.”

Julia did her A-levels at Winstanley College in Wigan and credits her politics teacher Elaine Mulroy with supporting her and setting her on the path to success.

After doing a writing course at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre she studied at Cambridge University, where she wrote plays for the famous Footlights drama society, before training as an actor in London.

She is also working on her next play for Pennyworth Productions, where she is co-artistic director, but says living in London will certainly not mean abandoning her North West roots in her writing.

She said: “My plays will always be about the things I’m interested in, which are class, identity and guilt.

“My new work is still going to be about northern voices and women. I want to write stories you don’t necessarily see represented on stage.”