Friends to star in Andrea Dunbar's years on Bradford's Buttershaw estate

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Andrea Dunbar Andrea Dunbar

The family and neighbours of Andrea Dunbar are among the cast of a new film about the Bradford playwright’s life.

Filming begins this month on the Buttershaw estate, where Andrea lived. The film combines excerpts from Andrea’s first play, The Arbor, with interviews and documentary footage.

Director Clio Barnard recorded interviews during visits to Buttershaw and edited them to form an audio screenplay, with actors lip-synching to the voices of people who knew Andrea.

Auditions were held at Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College and several roles have gone to people on the estate.

A spokesman for production company Artangel said filming was due to start within the month.

Mother-of-three Andrea wrote The Arbor at the age of 15. The largely autobiographical play, about a pregnant teenager, won the Young Writers’ Festival and premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 1980.

Andrea was commissioned to write Rita, Sue and Bob Too and was working on a follow-up when she died of a brain haemorrhage aged 29, in 1990.

Rita, Sue and Bob Too, about two teenagers’ affair with a married man, was made into a film in 1987.

The film’s depiction of the area as a bleak, rundown estate went down badly with residents, some of whom had appeared as extras. A protest was held prior to the film’s premiere in Bradford. The cast of the new film includes Andrea’s nephew, Richard Dunbar, who hopes it will portray Buttershaw in a more positive light.

“The producers are keen to get Buttershaw people involved and have spent a lot of time here,” he said.

“It’s good to see they’ve done their research. Auditions were held at the school where Andrea wrote The Arbor. It’s a very raw play.”

Bradford actress Irene Lofthouse plays Andrea’s schoolteacher.

“I worked on the estate 30 years ago, as an outreach careers service worker, so I know it well. I knew of Andrea and went to see her plays,” she said.

“The film is an intriguing mix of drama and documentary, I think it’ll be very powerful. The producers have been talking to people in The Beacon pub where Andrea used to go, and there’s some filming in the house of one of her cousins. The Ripple Project drugs support agency also features in the film.”

Andrea’s plays led to other dramatisations of Buttershaw life. Theatre director Max Stafford-Clark, who commissioned Rita, Sue and Bob Too, later produced A State Affair, a play based on interviews with Buttershaw residents, youth workers, probation officers, health visitors and teachers.

Last year Richard Dunbar’s play The Ripple Effect was performed largely by people from the estate.

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