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INTERVIEW | Why ‘The Band’ Shines an Important Spotlight on Female Friendship

The Band has been touring across the UK for over a year now and audiences not only love to reminisce on Take That’s greatest hits, but they’re falling in love with a beautiful story about a group of women. 

Set in 1992, we meet a a friendship group of 16 year old girls who are obsessed with The Band. Fast-forward 25 years later we join them on an emotional rollercoaster as they reunite to rekindle their unbreakable friendship.

The Band is a show about growing up and growing apart from the friends that made you who you are. When I first saw the show, it made me want to call all my friends, as the message of the show puts into perspective why our friendships are such an instrumental part of our lives. I spoke to Jayne McKenna and Emily Joyce, who play the adult Zoe and Heather in the show, to talk about the importance of highlighting female friendship in this production.

“Zoe is the clever one, she has all these aspirations to go to university but life takes her on a different road and that’s what drew me to the part,” Jayne said. “I spent most of my childhood wanting to be a doctor but ended up an actor, so I could really relate to her.” Zoe is part of a friendship group who are all in love with The Band, and as time goes on, it’s The Band that reunite them as adults. “When you’re the one at school that is considered to be the swot or the nerd, it is really important to belong to a group of friends and feel like you belong,” Jayne explained. “What is wonderful is their mutual love for the band, and it allows her to be part of the group and gives her that sense of acceptance.”

Emily plays the smart and sassy Heather, who is the joker of the friendship group. “She is the one that makes all the quick remarks. Academically she isn’t that bright, but she’s great fun and absolutely obsessed with fashion,” Emily said. “These girls have a really interesting relationship, they operate in a really easy way like they’re family.”

“Heather doesn’t deal with emotion terribly well, so when the girls experience trauma, she really doesn’t know how to deal with it,” Emily said. “Heather is desperately looking for security and love. When she is 16 she is the one that sleeps with all the boys. Approaching that as a 40-something actor is something I found really interesting. That’s because she doesn’t want to sleep with all the boys because she is a ‘slag’ but it is because there is something missing in her life. She has this insecurity and I wanted to explore how she finds peace with that as an adult.”

Jayne McKenna and Emily Joyce from The Band

In the show, the girls lose touch when they leave school and don’t see each other again until they reunite on a trip to see The Band. I asked Jayne and Emily how they relate to that, and if they’ve ever lost touch with their friends through adulthood. “I think there is an assumption that everyone is friends because they’re friends on Facebook,” Jayne said. “I’ve sat in a room with people I’m friends with on Facebook and we haven’t said a word to each other which is so weird. In the show it’s great because they have that physical reconnection and actually go on an adventure together. When they reconnect it is so important for Zoe because it is ultimately what gives her confidence to pursue her dreams.”

Emily added: “I’m not very good at holding on to people. But saying that, I had a friend come to see the show in Southampton who I hadn’t seen since I was young and it was just brilliant.” Reconnecting with old friends is incredible, but Emily emphasised that you shouldn’t feel resentment for letting people go. “I also believe that people fall out of your life and they fall out of your life for a reason. People give you different things at different times in your life and it’s ok to take what you need and move on, we don’t owe anyone anything.”

“I think that because the girls in the show weren’t able to prop each other up and were forced out into doing their own thing, that is why their lives changed.”

Like the girls in the show, Jayne reunited with her old friend that came to see the show in Southampton. “She was someone I grew up with and I can still probably tell her anything,” she said. “There is a sort of non-judgemental thing with people you’ve known for a very long time, so you instantly relate to them no matter how long it has been since you’ve seen them.”

Many people come to this production and expect a Take That extravaganza, but whilst it showcases the iconic hits of Take That, it’s a heart-warming story about the importance of female friendship. “People really expect to be singing along to Take That songs but the story just takes over,” Emily said. “It’s so beautiful and so cleverly told, Tim Firth weaves the songs of Take That through the dialogue and it’s quite extraordinary.”

Jayne added: “The fans at stage door relate to different characters. We have these fantastic groups of friends that come along to the show and identify with each of us. I really owe it to those women to play this character every night and even after 420 shows, I still feel obliged to give Tim’s beautiful script the respect it deserves and to honour those women who come to see the show and relate to it so heavily.”

This show has been tough for Jayne and Emily as they’re leaving their family behind to embark on this mammoth tour across the UK. However, it’s been an incredible show to be part of and a truly unforgettable experience. Asking them what they’ve learnt from doing this show and playing Zoe and Heather, they really reflected on what the last year has taught them.

“I’ve learnt not to be so frightened of what people think,” Emily said. “My character Heather Carter has taught me to just go out there and do it. Myself and Katie, who plays the young Heather, if we are ever feeling unsure of things or a bit low, we just say ‘What would Heather do?’ I’m not as brave as Heather, at all, and it has been so liberating to play her and have so much fun.”

Jayne really reinforced her belief in herself by doing this show as she realised that she can do it, even with three children. “I’ve learnt that I have more stamina than I thought,” she said. “But above all, I’ve learnt that no matter what stage you’re at in your career, whether you’ve been doing it for 25 years like me or have just started, there is still always something to learn from everyone. I watch those young girls and young boys and I learn from them every day. I’m never arrogant enough to think I know everything because I absolutely don’t. I’ve really enjoyed learning from everyone, we’re a lovely company.”

The Band is currently at The Lowry in Salford before continuing on tour, tickets and information can be found on the website.

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