Created as a post-industrial utopia intended to relieve some demographic pressure from Liverpool’s metropolitan area, cities like Skelmersdale promised their hopeful citizens visionary housing and alluring opportunities. Michael McLean’s Years of Sunlight, which is at Theatre503 until 18th February, offers a close up look at the uprooted communities that have been forced to relocate by these urban redevelopment policies. The play centres on Paul (Mark Rice-Oxley), who, tormented by the memories of his childhood and haunted by a thirty-year old friendship, decides to return to his former estate and tries to convince his mother to move on. Everything Theatre caught up with theatre and screen actor Bryan Dick – who plays Paul’s best friend Emlyn – to learn more about his role and his personal relationship with the stage.
Tell us more about Years of Sunlight. What is the play about, and how would you describe your role as Emlyn? Haunted by memories of his closest friend Emlyn, Paul returns to the ashes of his childhood home in a Liverpool overspill estate and implores his mother to leave it all behind. I play Emlyn, Paul’s deeply troubled but artistically gifted best friend.
How easy was it to identify yourself with the character? Are there any features of Emlyn that you can personally relate to?
That’s always a difficult question to answer. There will, inevitably, be personal experiences that I draw on in order to empathise with a character but, at the same time, characters will make decisions over the course of the drama that are anathema to me. Emlyn makes some pretty bad decisions.
What do you think is the core message that Years of Sunlight sends out to the audience?
I think that’s up to the audience to decide. I look forward to finding out from them!
Years of Sunlight is located in a utopian overspill estate of the Liverpudlian hinterland. Given the specificity of the location, how do you think this play will resonate with audiences around the UK?
Whilst the location of the play is important to the story, I hope that the themes are universal. All plays have to be specific about the world in which they set their characters, but, in the end, people are people wherever they are.
Outside of theatre, you also have a busy career in television and cinema. What is it that brings you back to the stage and what do you enjoy most about it?
I’ve been very lucky to have a decent spread of work and I enjoy working in all of the mediums, but when you are working in theatre you are interacting directly with the audience. That’s what makes it special.
Do you have a favourite theatre to work at in the UK? And, if so, which one and why?
The simple answer is no. I’ve had some really great experiences in every theatre I’ve worked. I’ve worked at some theatres more than others, but that’s more out of accident than design. Each new theatre is a different experience, and I really love it.
What’s next for you following Years of Sunlight? Do you have any plans to be back soon on the London stage?
To be honest, at this point I’m not sure what the year will bring. I have every intention of doing some more theatre but we’ll have to see what comes along. Life as an actor is rarely predictable.