THE two actresses playing Andrea Dunbar in a play about her - which premieres in a Bradford pub this week - also portray some of the men in her life.

Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile, based on Adelle Stripe's novel of the same name, is presented by Bradford-based Freedom Studios, with an all-female cast. It runs at The Ambassador pub on Sunbridge Road this week - tickets have already sold out - and will also be performed at Buttershaw Youth Centre, on the estate where Andrea lived, prior to a tour.

It's set in 1990, in Buttershaw's Beacon pub where Andrea, played by Sheffield actress Emily Spowage, looks back on her life. Younger Andrea is played by Lucy Hird from Clayton Heights. Emily also plays Max Stafford-Clark, who directed Andrea's plays The Arbor and Rita, Sue and Bob Too, and Lucy plays Alan Clarke, director of 1987 film Rita, Sue and Bob Too.

"We're playing versions of these men, seen through Andrea's eyes," said Emily. "This is a first-person narrative telling Andrea's story through her own words. There was heresay about her, and other people have told her story - the Telegraph & Argus makes an appearance in the play - but there's not a great deal about who she really was. People say she was quiet, but she had a spark. She was different things with different people. We all have various versions of who we are. She had challenges in life, but we want to get across the lighter side of her too. It wasn't all bleak."

The play features some of the women in Andrea's life, including Bafta-winning screenwriter Kay Mellor, who supported her writing, and Patsy Pollock, casting director for Rita, Sue and Bob Too. "Andrea's story has been largely told by the men in her life - and it was men who let her down the most," said Emily. "It was the women around her who supported and encouraged her. The women's refuge she stayed in played a big part in getting her writing noticed."

Lucy, who plays Andrea aged 14-25, said: "She was a mum, a sister, a best friend. Her friendships are highlighted in this play. There are moments in her plays Rita, Sue and Bob Too and Shirley when you can see how she valued female bonds. She had a life of dealing with difficult men, and saw her mother dealing with difficult men."

The play has been adapted by Lisa Holdsworth, who writes hit BBC drama Call the Midwife. "It's fiction, but there is truth in it," said Lucy. "I'm from the same area as Andrea, a family friend ran the Cap and Bells pub at Buttershaw, where she often went. It's been fascinating to find an understanding of her, and create the essence of her."

The play looks at the backlash after Rita, Sue and Bob Too, when Buttershaw residents protested about how the estate was depicted. "That had a profound effect on Andrea," said Lucy.

The production also shows how Andrea was discovered by her teacher, Tony Priestley, played by Emily. "Without his support from the beginning, she might never have been discovered," said Emily. "How many other Andreas slip through the cracks now, with overworked teachers too busy to nurture them?

"When I was a drama student and read Rita, Sue and Bob Too I thought, 'Here's something that represents me'. She was brilliant, but flawed. This is her story through her words.

"And it's told in an accessible way - in a pub, where you can sit and have a drink while you watch it."

* Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile runs at The Ambassador from Wednesday to June 8 and is sold out.

It will also be performed at Buttershaw Youth Centre on Monday, June 17. Tickets on a pay-what-you-decide basis, with proceeds going to the centre. Visit