‘Beyond words’: Karen Woods on Broken Youth stage adaptation selling-out Salford’s Lowry theatre

By Ben Ireland

Author Karen Woods rose from illiteracy to best-seller in just a few months in 2010 and the mother-of-four from Collyhurst has now sold out the stage adaptation of her debut novel Broken Youth in under a week.

Having written the script, she will also be co-directing the play, alongside Lauren Warwick, in the first of many theatrical productions Karen envisages for her future.

She described Broken Youth, set amidst the backdrop of a Manchester council estate, as ‘the story of how life can deal you a bad set of cards’.

“To see all the characters coming to life on the stage is beyond words,” Karen enthused.

“When I was first approached over the stage production of Broken Youth I was amazed at every character and scene because I knew I created them.

“When I sit there on the night, I’m going to be so proud and I will keep that memory forever.”

The cast are young, up-and-coming actors from similar backgrounds to Karen, and she feels nurturing this local talent is pivotal to conveying the unflinching reality of the narrative.

“When we did the casting for Broken Youth, I wanted raw gritty actors,” she said.

“It didn’t matter if they had never acted before. I am so glad I said this because the raw talent is amazing.

“This is a big chance for the actors to show what they can do.”

Karen feels the actors can identify with characters and, in particular, heroine Misty Sullivan as they are so familiar with the way of life in Manchester’s neighbourhoods.

She added: “The actors can relate to the storyline and you can see that when the scenes are being done. Each one of them feels the emotions.”

Certainly coming across as someone who gets what she wants when she puts her mind to it, Karen said: “It was my first attempt at writing script, but I mastered it straight away.”

Enjoying the experience so much, she’s currently in the process of converting another of her books, Teabags and Tears, into a stage production.

With a host of ‘VIP’ guests in attendance, including the Happy Mondays’ Bez and Mancunian TV presenter Terry Christian, Karen is thrilled with the success of selling out the 1,700 seat Salford venue.

But she wasn’t surprised at the level of interest shown.

“I had a gut feeling the show would be an instant success,” she said.

“The book has lots of followers and has already been voted number one in Waterstones.

“Tickets went on sale last Friday and I was counting them down as they sold.”

Karen and Lauren are in talks with the Lowry about extending the show for an extra night due to demand for tickets.

“Facebook was buzzin’ with people talking about it. They were putting pictures up of themselves holding their prize tickets.

“It was like we were selling Take That tickets.”

Karen can hardly believe her play is outselling acts such as Justin Moorhouse and said the Lowry had told Lauren how surprised they were that a northern drama that no one had heard of was so popular.

Karen has enjoyed her own adaptation from illiterate adult to author, and is now equally proud of the progression onto stage.

She said her dream is to become a TV script writer, and has contacted Shameless writer Paul Abbott as she feels her work would be ‘right up his street’.

In the meantime, those who did manage to get hold of a much sort-after ticket can hope for a night of what Karen calls an ‘emotional rollercoaster’.

She said: “They will laugh and cry and search their own lives for the mistakes they have made. Broken Youth will stay with them long after the curtain closes.”

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