Anne of Green Gables on stage

Redhead actor Collene Webb has formed her own theatre company with the sole aim of raising the profile of fellow red-haired people on stage and screen.

The Staffordshire-based performer is concerned about restrictive casting in her industry and decided to do something about it herself.

Her first production with Redhead Reach is Anne of Green Gables, and it will be performed at two venues in Derbyshire in April.

“As a professional scriptwriter and actor I have witnessed stereotyping, standardised characters and gender inequality. I guess I am not just trying to raise awareness about redheads – I want to provoke debate about this sort of problem in general.

“Quite often casting directors will ask for a blonde or a brunette and it is almost as if they have never even consider that redhead people exist,” she said.

Collene stars as Anne in her new play which she has adapted from LM Montgomery’s best-selling 1908 novel.

She hopes it will be the most authentic adaptation anyone is likely to see, as she has travelled to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia in Canada where the Anne novels are set.

The play, being produced in asssociation with Found Theatre, aims to capture the magic of those places and also features traditional Canadian music and original folk songs composed by Collene and set to Montgomery’s poems.

The classic coming of age novel tells the story of redheaded orphan, Anne Shirley, who is sent to Green Gables by mistake.

Marilla and her brother Matthew Cuthbert had intended to adopt a boy to help on the farm, so when a spirited girl arrives they don’t know what to think.

But soon the Cuthberts and the village community of Avonlea, Prince Edward Island grow fond of Anne despite her constant chatter, mishaps and fiery temper. Life will never be the same again.

The production is directed by Simon Corble who is from Monyash with a cast of five professional actors performing 13 characters. One of the actors, Sarah Gordon, is from Buxton and the show’s costume supervisor Katherine Newbury is from Darley Abbey.

Anne of Green Gables can be seen at the Guildhall Theatre, Derby, from April 3-6 and Bakewell Town Hall from April 7-10.

Selected performances offer a free post-show talk, Carrots! on the theme of red hair and identity (open to everyone) or free post-show creative writing workshop, Story Club (for ages seven-11, maximum of 20 children per workshop). Visit the venue websites http://www.derbylive.co.uk and http://www.bakewelltownhall.co.uk for more details.

For more information about Redhead Reach go to http://www.redheadreach.moonfruit.com