IDENTITIES, the play about boobs set up by Warrington creative Rae Bell, is returning to the north this Saturday.

Identities tells a comedic yet touching story about Breast Cancer and will be finishing off their UK tour with two performances at the Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot.

Rae Bell, who attended Lymm High School, created the show, co-stars in it, and founded the production company ‘Close to Home Productions’. Close to Home is focused on bringing stories by women and non-binary people from the north west to the stage, with Identities being their first production.

Telling the story of a woman’s life and breast cancer diagnosis from the perspective of two characters, her left and right boob, the play has been a huge success, playing two nights in Warrington before travelling to perform one show in Cumbria and two in London.

Warrington Guardian:

Ahead of their return up north to cap off the tour, we caught up with Rae, as well as Maya Shimmin the Director of ‘Identities’ and newly appointed co-Creative Director of Close to Home Productions alongside Rae.

In asking Rae about that first show at Pyramid and Parr Hall she said “I don’t think I’d realised the level of emotion I would have when I had my family there and talking about it afterwards. You just forget what you’re doing because you’re in actor mode, rehearsal mode, all of this is done in two days mode. So, you don’t really think about it until it’s done.

“We knew this was important, but we just did not expect the reaction that it’s got.”

Rae’s Mum inspired the play to a great extent due to her experience with breast cancer. Rae was 13 when her mother was diagnosed and spoke of how her Mum has become the play’s biggest fan.

“I think my Mum’s acting a bit like I won an Oscar, she’s literally been to every show, she’s coming on Saturday, she’s obsessed with the show and everyone in it, she’s so proud.

Me and my Mum have always had a very open, honest, deep relationship, so we’re able to have really incredible conversations about how it made both of us feel, and she is just pretty amazing.”

Warrington Guardian: Rae in IdentitiesRae in Identities (Image: Close to Home Productions)

From the success of the show Maya’s role has since changed, with the success of the play leading to the offer of co-Creative Director of Rae’s production company Close to Home.

On this Maya said, “It was kind of a thing that Rae floated a year ago or so, and at that point I was like, ‘I don’t really know where the company is going yet, or what we are doing yet’.

So, I let her know it maybe just wasn’t the time, and that I didn’t feel like that was the right point in my professional career yet’. The conversation came up after again after the tour, and I was really worried after turning it down the first time she wouldn’t want to work with me again!

But then Rae went ‘can we just have a conversation about what your role is?’ I just went ‘oh my god’, it just felt so right”.

Whilst Close to Home remains committed to providing a voice to women and non-binary people from the North-West, the experience of the tour has expanded their goals.

Maya said: “It’s still the same in terms of platforming women and non-binary people in the North-West, but we’ve expanded a little to be more focused broadly on the North. That move helped us realise the importance of supporting artists from different backgrounds as well, particularly working-class people.

“As part of that what we’re also really clear on is that we want to be the change we want to see in the industry, to be accessible and diverse.

“I think that ‘Northern’ voices in theatre definitely has a stereotype and it’s really important to tell new stories and change those stereotypes.”

When conversation moved on to the return to the north, Rae spoke emotionally of how it was bittersweet but that she remained hopeful for the future.

Warrington Guardian:

“Really excited to return, I’m excited to bring a show to Shakespeare north, it’s such a fresh new space with a fresh ethos and ideas, and I think our company works really well in that environment. I’m excited now that the show has got a bit of clout, we hopefully will have some audience members that aren’t just my Mum!

It’s kind of bittersweet but I really, really believe in my heart that I don’t think it’s the end of the show. I really hope that it’s not and we’ve got so many ideas going forward. We’ve lived our dream for the past six months with creating this show and going on tour, we’ve been doing things that you never in your wildest dreams thought you’d be able to achieve”

Tickets are available now at the Shakespeare North Playhouse for their shows on Saturday at 2pm and 7pm.