Shameless actress Sally Carman from Mexborough is back on home turf in Doncaster, playing another “brassy survivor” in a new production of Kes.
She takes the role of Mrs Casper, the mum of kestrel lover Billy, in a stage adaptation of Barry Hines’ book, A Kestrel for a Knave, that was famously made into a much-loved film by Ken Loach.
Sally, who played prostitute Kelly in the long-running comedy drama, said: “I was kind of a Mrs Casper there. That sort of brassy survivor who will do whatever it takes. I thought Kelly had a bigger heart than Mrs C. She’ll be a bigger character than Kelly if that’s possible.”
The actress said she’s able to go “hell for leather” with the character as she doesn’t have to worry about her accent.
She said: “The character would be my age, 39. In my head I’ve got stilettos and a beehive.
“She’s a victim of circumstances. It was hard enough in a 2.5 family setting at that time, no bugger had anything. You could leave your front doors unlocked because there was nothing to steal.
“It was a much more respectable time and much more moralistic. She didn‘t have a partner and she was known for sleeping around, whether it was quite so much as people said.
“She is a survivor. If she needs to be with a man to have a few drinks on a Saturday or to take her away from the misery of her own making, she’s going to do it. “
“She’s not particularly maternal but who can blame her in that respect? She’s a hard woman for a hard life.”
She remembers plenty of women from growing up that she could base the character on.
“I used to go to working men’s clubs 20 years ago. That’s when I first started going out on Saturday night. You could see the rhythm and repetitiveness to them. The same people in the same seats.
“They had a turn on and if you moved during the bingo you were in trouble. They brought the meat tray round and cockles. I remember it clear as day.
“Every other woman was a Mrs Casper, married women out for a Saturday night out, shoulders back, boobs out, lipstick on, clutching their handbags. They went to have a good time.”
Sally was born in Mexborough, moving between there and Bolton on Dearne as a child. At 18 she went to the prestigious LAMDA drama school in London. She spent seven years in the capital, later moving to Manchester when she was in Shameless.
She said a favourite part of playing Kelly in Shameless was the outrageous outfits she wore.
“Me and Jo Slater, who designed them, we both thought, if it’s funny, just get it on. She’d say, ‘I got this off a market stall, is it too much?’ What defines too much?
“One time I wore a fishnet body stocking in a scene in the kitchen. It was a massive success.”
She added: “I fondly remember Kelly but I don’t miss the job because I’d absolutely done with it but I do miss the people. They kind of came with me because I still see them.
“It was good to leave when I did. I can look back and think of it very fondly.
“If I hadn’t have left, I wouldn’t have got Prisoners’ Wives.”
In that show, set in Sheffield, Sally played respectable wife and mum Kim, battling to prove her husband innocent of terrible crimes.
Sally is sad that it won’t come back for a third series.
She joked: “I like to think I had something to do with the fact that it got cancelled! It had massive viewing figures but they decided not to go on with it which was a surprising decision.
“I put it down to money. It cost quite a lot to do a they had to build a whole prison and the stellar cast members cost money.”
Sally has been thrilled to work in the new Doncaster arts venue, Cast, which is celebrating its first birthday with Kes.
She said: “I was at the opening night and I watched the first production, Glee Club, which I just loved.
“I am a massive supporter anyway and I just wanted to do something here.
“Doncaster deserves to have a fresh start. It’s crying out for this. I couldn’t quite believe when it actually opened. In that respect it’s like a mini miracle.”
Sally is enjoying the luxury of staying with her parents, Stephen and Ann Carman, at the moment. She even gets a packed lunch made for her to take to the theatre every day.
Kes is at Cast from September 5 to 13. The ambitious show features a professional cast, local actors – and a real live kestrel.
Bookings: go to Cast in Doncaster or call 01302 303 959. Tickets are £16.50 (£13.50 concessions).