Actress Julie Hesmondhalgh wins over theatre critics

Julie Hesmondhalgh and Andrew Sheridan in Blindsided Julie Hesmondhalgh plays a mother in 1970s Stockport in Blindsided

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Former Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh has earned some glowing reviews after making the move from the screen to the stage in Manchester.

Hesmondhalgh, who played Hayley Cropper in the soap, is now in Blindsided at the Royal Exchange theatre.

The Times' critic Dominic Maxwell said the actress "proves she is the real deal, a great stage presence".

The Daily Mail's Quentin Letts was less gushing, describing her as a "reasonable stage actress".

Hesmondhalgh's Coronation Street character was seen dying last Monday. Two days later, she won the award for best serial drama performance at the National TV Awards.

A day after that, she was in the first preview performance of Blindsided, a dark and twisted love story by acclaimed playwright Simon Stephens.

She plays the mother of the wayward teenage Cathy in Stockport in 1979 before later playing the adult Cathy in 1997.

Daily Telegraph critic Dominic Cavendish said the role of the mother was "nicely played" by Hesmondhalgh, the Manchester Evening News' Natalie Anglesey said both parts were "beautifully performed" and The Stage's Ben East praised the actress' "great warmth and humanity".

The overall verdict on the play was less enthusiastic, however.

In The Times, Mr Maxwell said "Stephens serves up extreme, articulate characters who hold the interest but don't engage the emotions".

Mr Letts described it as an "unconvincing, sweary little play" in which "the unpleasantness is pushed way beyond credibility", while Mr East in The Stage declared it "just very difficult to like".

Simon Stephens is known for his adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for the National Theatre as well as for writing plays including Punk Rock and Port.

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