You’ll remember her from Thin Blue Line, The Sarah Jane Adventures or as Dev’s ex-wife in Coronation Street, but now Lancashire lass Mina Anwar is about to embark on a brand-new theatre show focussed all on women over 50 – The Thunder Girls.
The Thunder Girls, is the debut play by Manchester local Melanie Blake, starring four female actors over the age of 50, and will have its preview run at The Lowry, Tue 24 – Sat 28 September.
With all four of female actors over 50, one of the most underrepresented demographics in the UK entertainment industry, it’s a true celebration of women. The Thunder Girls has a female writer, female producer and female director all from working class roots – another area which is overlooked in mainstream media.
“It’s not a man bashing piece,” Mina sighs, “it’s a levelling of the playing field. It’s not an all-woman production team – we’re not into men bashing – we’re into elevating women. Hopefully it’ll attract men and women alike, it’s an inclusive piece of theatre for all cultures and diversities and for everyone remotely interested in theatre. Theatre should be a place to come together, always in my view, it’s about community.”
Mina takes on the role of Carly, the youngest member of the group, “She’s a truthful, real character,” grins Mina, “unique in terms of who she is. Fiercely loyal and level, Carly has finally found her voice. Carly has always played it nice and paid the price, but now that a second chance is on the table, justice could be sweet,” giggles Mina.
Mina, who grew up in Church, near Accrington studied Drama at Accrington, and Rossendale College before moving on to drama school and has been a familiar face on our stages and screens for years, but she admits she’s excited to get her teeth stuck into new play, The Thunder Girls.
“Melanie has written about a very underrepresented age group of women on stage where they are the protagonists – it’s not about being in a retirement home, it’s about empowerment now they are all over 50.”
Mina explains that all the characters go on journeys and change by the end of the play, including songwriter Carly, but for Mina it’s the way she helps them come together that’s most touching.
“There’s something nurturing about it – that someone can help somebody without being a kind of egoistical thing. I think she [Carly] enables them to then support each other in a more open way. That’s what I love about her.”
And so I can’t help but wonder if it’s a tale of lifelong friendship too and how important Mina finds those bonds?
“I have a few lifelong friends and even after 30 years. It’s like we’re still back at college. There’s a bond when you’ve shared intense times with people and helping each other through those things and had fights – it’s an unbreakable bond – however much you might fall out – it’s actually still a foundation upon which you grew up.”
It’s probably a good job our Mina has such a strong foundation, because this lass never stops working, “I like to learn about myself and give my best, I want to go in there and think I’ve given it everything because if I don’t, I might as well not go. You have to keep your sword sharp to still have a career after 30 years – you need to keep your skill levels relevant and keep your confidence up.”
“I went to the Open University and did my degree in Psychology. I really loved science even though I was singing jazz in working men’s clubs – I was very academic at school. I meditate every day and do Yin Yoga too.”
After nodding politely, I’m not sure if I should move onto my next question, or actually discover what the heck Yin Yoga is…still baffled I opt for Yin Yoga.
Smiling (without being condescending) she educates me. “It’s where you hold a static posture for nearly five minutes. You go as far as you can go.” Mina smiles, “It’s very meditative. It gives you peace, helps with your stress levels, it’s amazing.” Ah, now I know what it is. I’m very good at it. And she seems relatively impressed that I can hold a position on the sofa in front of the TV for a lot longer than five minutes. I’m almost a guru.
And one of Mina’s loves is dancing – so much so one of her next jobs is directing and choreographing a new musical at South Shield’s The Customs House called The Dolly Mixtures. “I feel absolutely blissful when I’m choreographing and directing. I love it,” she grins. The Dolly Mixtures is the story of two women from the North East – who in Calendar Girls style – raised thousands for charity after one of their husbands died.
“They were a troupe in the working men’s clubs. They did it for 15 years and didn’t take a penny. They made over £100,000 and were never recognised. It’s a lovely story,” Mina smiles, “It’s such an honour – but a scary honour – it’s quite terrifying!”
My time with Mina is almost up so there’s only one question left… Yorkshire pudding or Lancashire hotpot?
“Depends who’s making it – or maybe, a Lancashire hotpot in a Yorkshire pudding! What would you call it? A Lancashire pudding? A Yorkshire hotpot?”
Well, I’d be willing to give it a try… James Martin, do you fancy the challenge? Mina certainly does!