Report - 'Hillsborough' (Clapperboard Presents)

Report by Jen // FACT, Liverpool, 6th December 2010
See images courtesy of Clapperboard UK here & here
More info.

This was only my third viewing of Jimmy McGovern's 'Hillsborough'. Being a Nottingham Forest fan I feel I can share the grief and suffering that is still going on in Liverpool twenty-one years later. I still physically cry at certain key points of the drama which just focuses on three families, their backgrounds, the unfolding events at Sheffield and then dealing with the aftermath. Nothing, but nothing will take away the memory of those who perished on that Saturday in April 1989 or the lies, deceit and the cover up that marred serious investigations by the coroner at the time. It takes someone with a heart of stone not to feel moved or in the case with me well up in tears.

After the credits rolled, volunteers from the charity Clapperboard UK busily set up microphones and digital cameras to capture the Q&A session. Much thanks to Maureen Sinclair (Director of Clapperboard UK) who stepped in at the last minute because Professor Roger Shannon, Media Department of Edge Hill University, was apparently stranded in Birmingham. Mark Womack who also starred in 'Hillsborough' regrettably couldn't make it either, so it was just Christopher Eccleston on his own.

He didn't need any introduction and was quite happy to take his seat and start answering questions from anyone. Christopher firstly apologised for looking 'a bit messy'. He spent most of the morning doing a ten mile run only to get back home to find that his boiler had burst and that he couldn't have a shower, and tried to sort his hair out in the car to Liverpool to look a bit more presentable.

The radio microphone he was provided with was malfunctioning, and he then started to play around with it, pretending at one point he was Alvin Stardust. Those old enough to remember him gave a wry smile, the rest of the audience thought "Who's Alvin Stardust?" In the end Christopher didn't use a mic as there were so few of us (around 100-150), and he was loud enough to be heard at the back. He said that he hated using radio microphones.

There were the obvious questions put to him on the night, mainly regarding why he initially chose to do 'Hillsborough'. He also told about working with McGovern on the ITV show 'Cracker'. He answered the questions one after another, clearly, directly and at times brutally honestly. He said he still had a deep respect for the Hillsborough families twenty-one years later, that it had left an indelible mark on him. Playing Trevor Hicks was probably the best thing he'd done as an actor.

At the time of the tragedy he was at Bristol Old Vic in 'A Streetcar Named Desire', doing a matinee, and was watching the television in his dressing room - that was his professional d├ębut as an actor. The Sun in his view was not a newspaper and could be used for something else which made people laugh and applaud.

Christopher said he hated "instant celebrity" culture that's associated with reality television shows such as 'The X Factor' and 'I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here', and that building up a good body of work and craft was far more important. Another person commented that he had a lovely voice and that he had not lost his Salfordian dialect, to which he replied that when he spoke his poshest during the filming of 'Elizabeth', playing the Duke of Norfolk, his father said he sounded more like the Duke of Salford!

Christopher was asked how he chose acting above all else as a career. He wanted to be a central midfielder for Manchester United when he was young (a few boos!) but not everyone could be one could they? He got into acting purely by chance at the college where he was retaking his exams (and failed them). They were putting on a play and he fancied a girl who was a bit 'posher' than he was and who completely ignored him at the time.

While people perceived him as a good actor, he said, on a personal level he thought it's just the simple reason he'd chosen good scripts and firmly believed that he's absolutely nothing without a good one - he'd been turning down a lot recently.

He became very close friends with Trevor Hicks whom he portrayed in 'Hillsborough' (and was best man at his wedding). During the filming the families who were featured in it were invited on set and watched a few of the rehearsals too. There was no need to research the role because of that. He portrayed Trevor trying to appear "suited and booted" but in the end being left devastated by the loss of the women he loved: the two daughters and ultimately his first wife Jenny.

Christopher was genuinely pleased with the people who had shown up for the screening, though the auditorium was half empty. Liverpool FC that night were playing at Anfield (winning 3-0 against Aston Villa), and the last fortnight had seen some of the worst winter weather in over forty years. The closeness to Christmas also made it hard, disaster still being a sensitive subject to the people and the city of Liverpool.

A lot of people wanted to say thank you to Chris Eccleston personally, asked for photos and autographs. He thanked and clapped along with us all for coming (some of us had come some distance and battled through the snow and ice).


1 comment:

joanr16 said...

Jen, thank you for braving the weather to attend. It's clear you enjoyed the evening. I was curious about audience reaction and your report answered my questions. Thanks for sharing the experience with us!

(Plus, the boiler story makes me feel a little better about my ancient apartment and its many annoyances.)