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by David Keyworth (subscribe)
Iím a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester. My debut poetry pamphlet is available at
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Life lessons
A former Coronation Street star is continuing her post-soap career by taking on the lead role in a Pulitzer Prize winning play.

Julie Hesmondhalgh, who played Hayley Cropper in the soap opera, will be back at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre, between 21st January and 13th February, She will play Vivian Bearing in Wit by Margaret Edson.
Julie Hesmondhalgh Wit Royal Exchange
Julie Hesmondhalgh in the poster for Wit at the Royal Exchange

Vivian Bearing is an exacting English Professor, who has expertise in metaphysical poetry. After being diagnosed with cancer, she is determined to stay in control. She approaches the aggressive illness with the same rationalism that has served her so well in her career. She becomes caught between metaphysics, medicine and her own mettle.

Julie Hesmondhalgh appeared in Blindsided by Simon Stephens at the Royal Exchange at the start of 2014, just after she had left Coronation Street. Her first appearances in the play coincided with her collecting a best serial drama performance prize at the National Television Awards.

She also won a Manchester Theatre Award for her performance in Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster. The play by Simon Armitage was based on a real life fatal attack on a 20-year-old student.

The cast of Wit also includes Jenny Platt who played Violet Wilson in Coronation Street. She will take on the role of nurse Susie, who cares for Vivian.

Wit, was made into a film, in 2001, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Emma Thompson, Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Atkins.

It will be directed at the Royal Exchange by Raz Shaw. His credits include directing at Shakespeare's Globe, including working with the South Sudan National Theatre in Cymbeline.

Two years ago Raz Shaw started writing his first book, Death and the Elephant: How Cancer Saved my Life which is about his experiences as a 28-year-old with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and his reflections on the illness since being given the all clear in 1996. He also has just made the first of what he hopes will be a series of podcasts called Cancer Talk which takes a heartfelt but irreverent look at all things Cancer.

Hayley Cropper broke new ground as a transgender character in a British soap opera. The character went on to become one of the best-loved in Coronation Street. Towards the end of 2013, Julie Hesmondhalgh filmed poignant scenes in Blackpool, alongside her on-screen husband Roy, played by David Neilson. Hayley Cropper decided to end her own life after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Speaking about the play Julie Hesmondhalgh said: "At its most simple Wit is about life, love, sickness and death, something we can all relate to. But it's so much more intricate than that, it is a beautiful play that is full of grace and redemption."

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Why? Award-winning actress in award-winning play
Phone: 0161 833 9833
Where: Royal Exchange, Manchester
Cost: From £10
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