THERE’S a certain irony at seeing Paula Lane’s name on a production of Road which opens at Oldham Coliseum tonight.
After all she spent six years on arguably the most famous thoroughfare in the country, playing Kylie Platt on Coronation Street.
But Jim Cartwright’s acclaimed play, set on a northern street during the mid Eighties is a very different beast.
“It’s Corrie with expletives,” laughed Paula. “It’s certainly not one for the faint-hearted but the characters are just so great, I think everyone will relate to them.”
Paula plays three different characters in the production.
“That’s a great challenge to get as an actor. They may all live on the same street but they come from very different backgrounds and approach things in very different ways.
Alyuce Liburd, Richard J Fletcher and Paula Lane in reheasal for Road (Pictures: Chris Payne)
“It’s allowed me to make some really bold, big choices about how to play them.When we first started rehearsals, the director Gitika Buttoo said she just wanted us to be brave and that’s what we have done.
“Having said that I’m not sure what my nana will say about all the swearing!”
To get three very strong characters to play in one production is a real bonus, Paula admits.
“It is freeing,” she said. “There’s nothing more exciting than being completely different than the person that you really are. When you are playing different characters people see different sides to you as an actor and in this production I get three characters to do that with.”
Paula admits that Road is probably not a production she would have considered when she first left Coronation Street. She memorably bowed out in 2016 with Kylie dying after being stabbed in the street.
“I needed that separation from being Kylie,” she said. “I needed to prove to myself more than anyone else that I could do some other things.”
Those ‘other things’ including starring in the hit musical Kinky Boots, appearing in Call the Midwife and Father Brown on TV and also appearing in panto.
Paule Lane in Road (Picture: Chris Payne)
“I’m loving the variety,” she said. “Nothing that I’ve done has been predictable and I’ve really had to work, it’s not come easy. It hasn’t all been laid out for me, I really feel I’ve had to earn my stripes. It’s exciting when you’ve got so many different genres to go at whether it be TV, theatre or screen. I just like to keep testing myself all the time.
“But now to be able to come full circle and be able to dive back into what is I suppose a heightened kitchen sink drama is very rewarding. The timing is perfect for me.”
Having got her big break on Coronation Street you might suspect Paula favours TV over stage.
“I think at one time I would have said that,” she said, “but you can’t beat being on stage. What I’m finding is that you get so much more freedom. You get the chance to develop your character. Sometimes you might land on a set and be given your costume an hour before you do your scene and that can completely change how you play a person.
“You are very much dictated to on screen and it’s so blooming quick. But this is what I’m enjoying about this process, it just gives you a little bit more time to explore and delve.”
Claire Storey, Paula Lane and Richard J Fletcher in Road (Picture: Chris Payne)
Time is always in short supply for Paula. She and her husband - fellow actor Tom Shaw - run a stage school in Hebden Bridge where they live and balance that and acting jobs with bringing up their two young children.
“We’re very good at juggling,” she said.
Deciding to leave a high profile role in a major soap is a big decision but Paula clearly has no regrets.
“It wasn’t easy at first,” she said. “When you’ve had that security around you for long time to be out in the big wide world of the industry is quite a scary place but I’m so much more determined now, I’m more persistent.”
So does she mind the ‘former Coronation Street star’ label that will follow her?
“Honestly, I’m just really proud to have that accolade. I get there are some people who want might to escape it but at end of the day, you’re not going to be able to so the quicker you realise that you’re off to a flying start.
“Corrie was my springboard. It allowed me to buy my first house. I got married, I set myself up. I was able to do many more things with my life. It brought me a new found confidence and I learned so much there. I won’t ever shun it.”
Paule Lane in Road (Picture: Chris Payne)
But now it’s Road which has her full attention.
“I know that audiences are going to get it,” she said, “It is so relevant at the moment and hopefully people might have a little more sympathy for people in other walks of life might that they might not have had sympathy for previously.
“We are currently in very uncertain times and people are having to tighten their belts which may be they haven’t had to do before. This play will resonate with people.”
Road, Oldham Coliseum, Friday, September 16 to Saturday, October 1. Details from www.coliseum.org.uk