AN inspirational Redcar-based actress and singer is proving that, rather than move to London, talented creatives can shine, flourish and create a bright future in Teesside.

Joanna Andrews, 27, already has an impressive stage and screen CV – with appearances in Brighton’s award-winning satirical comedy The Treason Show winning rave reviews at the Brighton Fringe Festival, plus TV and film appearances in Call the Midwife, Poirot and The Lady in the Van. Then a major knee injury and pressing family commitments forced her to reassess her future plans.

Moving back home to Redcar to help support her family, Joanna founded Charm Productions, a vintage-themed murder mystery, theatre, music and corporate production company. Now, just two years later, the busy actress and singer currently has more than 40 freelance actors on her books across the country, produces events in a growing range of exciting venues across the North-East and North Yorkshire, and has a number of productions set to spread nationwide.

But putting family first, Joanna is also main carer for her disabled mum Trish, and is preparing to donate a kidney to her sister Rebecca.

How did your acting career begin?

“When I was about 12 years old, I was quite unhappy at school and my mum took me to a performing arts class to help improve my confidence. I loved it and took to the arts like a duck to water. I was attending a theatre school in Billingham and performing in plays and shows around the area before I moved away to work. I travelled a lot around the country before settling in Kent.”

What brought you back home to Redcar?

“It was a combination of things really. I obviously wanted to help support my mum and sister, and my knee injury meant I needed some time out anyway, so the timing was pretty much meant to be. In 2016, I had a major operation on the anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee which made it impossible for me to continue the amount of work I was doing.

“Around this time, my sister Rebecca had started to suffer from chronic kidney disease and it was obvious to me that I needed to be back home in Redcar. My mum has had health issues since I was three years old; starting with cancer and, later, heart attacks, diabetes and fibromyalgia, which have left her in a wheelchair much of the time.

“Rebecca, looked after me a lot as a child whilst mum was ill, so when she was diagnosed with kidney disease and needed a kidney, I didn’t think twice. Sadly, last year, Rebecca had a stroke which left her paralysed on her left side and, at the end of last year, she had her right leg amputated after complications with sepsis. I’m just relieved that I made the decision to come home because things have been so difficult for the family. And, ultimately, Rebecca will still need that kidney.

“My mum and Rebecca both still have an amazing sense of humour. They are both very strong women; and they raised me to be a strong and independent woman too, which has helped me enormously in my career.”

Tell us about creating your own company?

“When I moved back home to Redcar, I knew I still wanted to perform. I saw an opportunity to not only create my own shows, but also create the sort of company I’d always wanted to work for. Many of our actors and performers work in multiple productions, making us like a new-old-fashioned rep company. It’s a company created from the heart.”

Tell us about your current shows.

“Everything we do has a vintage theme, and we try to get our audiences as involved in the shows as much as possible. Our current adventures include the 1920s-based Isabelle Mumford Mysteries, with me playing detective as Miss Mumford; The Lipsticks, a female Rock n’ Roll trio of sassy vintage songbirds; The Jersey Dreamboats, a combined tribute to West End hits The Jersey Boys and Dreamboats & Petticoats; and a traditional panto-style children’s show featuring jungle detectives Peg & Greg.”

“We’re preparing to take shows all over the country, but we currently have productions running regularly in a number of venues across the region. We can adapt our shows to fit any venue or occasion – country hotels, restaurants, festivals, theatres, or if someone wants a spot of Shakespeare in a pub, we can give them Shakespeare in a pub.”

What do you like best about being back home at Redcar?

“It’s a mix of the people and the place itself. My family have always encouraged me to follow my dreams, so being able to be here for them and support them when they need me the most, that’s the best thing about being at home. For years I was miles away from the seafront, but now I can have a morning walk on the beach every day. There really is no place like home!”