Grandmother inspiration for actress

STRONG: Annie Kirkman playing the role of Nancy in the Lyttelton Arts Factory's Christmas production of Oliver Twist.

When Annie Kirkman plays the role of Nancy from Oliver Twist, she channels the characteristics of her nan.

The English born and bred actress has performed the role numerous times in East Yorkshire and has now travelled to the city with the East Riding Theatre to play the role for the Lyttelton Arts Factory.

CLOSE FAMILY: Annie Kirkman says she has grown up in a family of strong women. (From left): Her mother Susan Kirkman, Annie Kirkman, Mary Haswell and Elspeth Kirkman.

“My grandma was a true Cockney woman…she is that very strong-minded, independent woman,” Kirkman said.

Her grandmother Mary Haswell lived an “amazing life” often working three-four jobs to provide for her five children, and lived most of her life in East London.

She had three marriages and managed to change her third husband from a robber into an honest man.

“He was in the wrong crowd and when he met my grandmother she basically said to him it is this or me,” Kirkman said.

Shortly after the ultimatum, her grandfather Eric Parr turned his robbery on its head and dedicated a book to Haswell called “Grafters All. A guide to the Art Of Robbery”.

Kirkman said her character Nancy is similar to her grandmother in terms of her strength, the way she got on with life and that she was a “maternal woman”.

In the show, Nancy is known as a “child of the streets”, thieving for a London gang since the about the age of six.

Inspite of her rough life Nancy is known to commit the most noble act in the story – betraying her criminal boyfriend Bill Sikes to give orphan Oliver Twist a better life.

This leads to her violent death by her boyfriend.

Kirkman said she has grown up in a strong family of women with feminist beliefs.

She said one of the biggest things her grandmother said to her was “it is okay to be on your own and you need to know how to be on your own”.

Since graduating from London’s Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts Kirkman has set up her own theatre company She Productions for local female actresses in East Yorkshire.

The company is the East Riding Theatre’s company in residence.

While the East Riding Theatre is ran by volunteers, it aims to produce a high calibre of theatre with Oscar-winning actress Dame Judi Dench as the patron.

Adrian Rawlins, who played the role of James Potter in the Harry Potter film series is the artistic director of the company.

In the spirit of Christmas, the show will also raise funds for the Christchurch City Mission.

Lyttelton Arts Factory manager Darryl Cribb said raising funds for the organisation was a “nice fit” with the show theming around homelessness.

Oliver Twist will run at the Lyttelton Arts Factory through to December 30. To book tickets go to