All female cast to perform "Be My Baby" at the King’s Arms Salford July 10-12

Be My Baby

AN ALL-FEMALE theatre company will make its debut at this year’s Greater Manchester Fringe Festival - with a play about inequality.


The play Be My Baby by Amanda Whittington, is set in 1964 and follows the fortunes of Mary Adams, aged 19 and seven months pregnant, who is sent to a mother and baby home. First performed in 1998, the play is widely studied at GCSE and A Level in schools and colleges. 


However actresses Leni Murphy and Hannah Blakeley say they are tackling modern day inequality in the theatre by setting up their own company, Asphalt Roses.


Former Salford University student Leni said: “We were sick of waiting for acting work to come to us. There are loads of female actors and hardly any female roles.


“We set up the company and called it Asphalt Roses because we like the femininity of a rose but we wanted something solid with it. Asphalt is a fluid substance that binds and is quite strong. 


We have set up an all-female company to create work in the North West for female actors, writers and directors. The reason we picked Be My Baby was because we wanted a strong well-known play for our first show then people will come and see what we can do. 


“That will enable is to return with a second show that might be new writing. We’ve always wanted to work with Lucia Cox (the director).


“We did not want to set up the company as profit share as we have done so many profit share things and we think people should be paid for their work. So we applied to the Arts Council for funding.


“We chose Be My Baby because it is rare to find a script that is all female. With our future shows we are going to switch gender roles. I have never had an all female cast before. The stereotype is that it will be divas and so demanding but it has been really lovely.


“One of the cast members has four children and we have been really flexible to take that into consideration. We have had some day rehearsals, some evening rehearsals. Maybe there would not have been that relaxation if it was not an all female company.


“We have to take that on board because in this industry people do have children, and other work commitments, because they are not getting paid that much. If someone is on a school run we will work on other scenes until that cast member comes in.”


Rehearsals have been held at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, where the both Leni and Hannah work: “The Exchange has been brilliant with us and very supportive.”


Hannah, who trained at RADA and plays the central role of Mary, said: “Most importantly we are working with other women who want to do this, and have drive and ambition like we do. 


“I’ve always been in the situation where I was the one being auditioned and it is nice to flip that on its head and be the one auditioning. The girls we’ve got are absolutely fantastic. They have the same goals as us.


“Leni and I are rehearsing 10am until 6pm and then going to our jobs, working until 11 at night, before getting up to do it all over again. We have definitely jumped in at the deep end.


“I was researching adoption and there was one story that I read about a girl who was only 15. Her bump had started to show and her mum took her to Woolworths and bought a fake wedding ring so it didn’t look like she was sinning.


“This is often performed in schools and colleges because it is so relevant to that age group and the first time I came across this was as a student. Funnily enough I was in an all female Shakespeare production at the same time.”


Together Leni and Hannah have talked to health and social care students in Harpurhey about the stigma of being an unmarried mother in the 1960s.


Leni said: “I think they were shocked how women were treated then. How unmarried mothers were viewed as dirty and were hidden far away from their families. Some of the girls on the course were unwed young mums.”


The feedback from teachers has been positive with Leni and Hannah described as “inspirational” and “pro-active role models”.


Leni has previously appeared at Greater Manchester Fringe in V For Vendetta, The Ballad of Halo Jones and Robots of Death. 


Also appearing in Be My Baby are Morag Peacock as matron, Bethan Caddick as Norma, Victoria Tunnah as Dolores, and Laura Campbell as Mrs Adams, Mary’s mother.


Their next project may involve Manchester poet Alex Keelan, who has written an all female show, about suffragettes.


Be My Baby is at the King’s Arms in Salford July 10-12 at 7.30pm, with a matinee on July 11 at 2.30pm. Tickets cost £8 and are available from  For more details