Coatbridge actress takes to stage in new Scottish musical Orphans

A rising stage star from Lanarkshire is in the spotlight as a cast member in the world premiere performances of a “darkly comical” Scottish musical.

Coatbridge actress Amber Sylvia Edwards is working alongside some of the industry’s top names in the new theater production of Orphans, based on the cult Peter Mullan film of the same name.

It opened last night at the SEC Armadillo in Glasgow, following preview shows in Greenock, and will then go on tour throughout this month to Edinburgh and Inverness.

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Amber Sylvia plays the featured role of Carole as well as appearing in the ensemble of Orphans, and describes the innovative National Theater of Scotland (NTS) production as “one of the biggest jobs I’ve ever done”.

She told Lanarkshire Live: “We all absolutely love it and I was so attracted to it as the show as the writing is amazing and everybody working on it is sensational; it’s new and exciting and we just want everyone to see it.

“It’s really fun and has been such a wonderful experience; it doesn’t even feel like a job and I’m working with all these huge names which is incredible.”

Set in Glasgow in 1998, Orphans follows the journey of the Flynn siblings on the eve of their mother’s funeral; the original written and directed by Peter Mullan was his first feature film and now the story about “family, grief and forgiveness” has been adapted into a “big, bold Scottish musical with raucous and heartfelt songs”.

It has an impressive cast including Burnistoun co-creator and performer Robert Florence, former Hollyoaks star Amy Conachan and Reuben Joseph, who has appeared in BBC drama Vigil and in Traces, and who also worked alongside Amber Sylvia in her last NTS role.

The new show is led by respected director, actor and writer Cora Bissett, “ingeniously adapted for the stage” by playwright Douglas Maxwell and features music and lyrics by Emmy-winning Glasgow composing team Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly.

Amber Sylvia Edwards in rehearsals for the new National Theater of Scotland production of Orphans
Amber Sylvia Edwards in rehearsals for the new National Theater of Scotland production of Orphans

It “signals the welcome return of live performances to Scotland’s largest theatres”; and Amber Sylvia said: “This is the first major Scottish musical since Brigadoon; it’s a wonderful way to come out of lockdown for Scotland, so let’s make a song and dance about it.

“It’s brilliant for me to be performing so close to home – being on stage in Glasgow and Edinburgh means it’s easy for my family and friends to come and I really want them to see the show, so that’s great. It also means my mum doesn’t need to organize a bus to the show as he’s done in the past!

“Anybody who’s seen it has been blown away and we hope everybody enjoys it as much as we’ve enjoyed bringing the performance together.”

Amber Sylvia – who had the extra-special present of starting rehearsals for the show on her 25th birthday this year – grew up in Coatdyke, where her family still lives and where her neighbors included another future actress, Anna Russell Martin.

The former pupil of St Patrick’s Primary and St Andrew’s High said: “We lived in the same street and there was a bunch of us little girls who would do dance and theater shows in the front gardens, and we’d write tickets which we posted through all the neighbours’ doors!

The cast and crew of the Orphans stage show, which is touring Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness
The cast and crew of the Orphans stage show, which is touring Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness

“I did lots of amateur drama growing up and went to theater groups at Airdrie arts center with Colin Scougall. I trained at New College Lanarkshire and even when I was then down in London I would do weekend shifts at Guidi’s restaurant and then go straight to get the overnight bus back down south.”

Highlights of her career to date include performing on the UK tour of Dirty Dancing, and a previous starring role with NTS in recent online festive musical Rapunzel, filmed at Stirling Castle.

Amber Sylvia said: “Rapunzel was so exciting and I still can’t believe I got that job as soon as lockdown ended, which was amazing, and got to work with such amazing people like Julie Nimmo and Reuben Joseph.

“I’ve had a really wonderful career and being part of Orphans is so exciting and it’s been amazing.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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