Hesmondhalgh in James Graham Nottingham play

Published: 14 March 2024
Reporter: Steve Orme

Julie Hesmondhalgh will play the victim’s mother Joan Credit: Savannah Photographic
David Shields will play Jacob Dunne
“Story for our time”: writer James Graham

Julie Hesmondhalgh is to appear in the world première of Nottinghamshire writer James Graham’s Punch at Nottingham Playhouse.

BAFTA-nominated Hesmondhalgh was in Coronation Street for 16 years. Her most recent television role was as Suzanne Sercombe in the ITV drama series Mr Bates vs the Post Office. On stage she was in the one-woman show The Greatest Play in the History of the World… by Ian Kershaw, which was staged at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre and London’s Trafalgar Studios. In Punch, she will play the victim’s mother, Joan.

Tony Hirst, who played Bill in Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen at the Royal Court Theatre in 2015, will play the victim’s father, David. Derby-born David Shields will feature as Jacob Dunne.

The cast also includes Shalisha James-Davis as Claire and Emma Pallant as Jacob’s mother. Both are from Nottingham where the play is set.

Punch is based on the book Right From Wrong by Jacob Dunne, a true-life account of how teenager Jacob throws a single punch with fatal consequences. After his release from prison, the parents of the victim ask to meet him. Their quest for answers results in an unlikely connection and Jacob’s life begins to turn around.

James Graham commented, “the more I've worked on Punch with Jacob and director Adam Penford, the more convinced I am of its power as a real story for our time. It’s one that reveals so much about our current justice system, our culture and the impact of politics on our community over the past decade. I'm so delighted with the cast we've assembled to come on this moving journey with us.”

Nottingham Playhouse artistic director Penford added, “we’ve been working on this powerful and unforgettable true-life story for four years. To be announcing the cast, marking the return of Julie Hesmondhalgh to the Playhouse stage alongside a formidable set of local actors led by David Shields in the title role is a significant moment.

“James Graham is an international writer of unparalleled talent. He returns to his home city of Nottingham with this vital play which we hope will change hearts and minds in the way that only culture can.”

Michael Palin will lead one of two post-show question-and-answer sessions in conversation with Jacob Dunne. Palin met Dunne in 2015 and has since supported his work in promoting restorative justice.

The creative team for Punch includes production designer Anna Fleischle, lighting designer Robbie Butler, sound designer and composer Alexandra Faye Braithwaite, movement director Leanne Pinder, movement consultant Lynne Page, casting director Christopher Worrall CDG and production consultant Jacob Dunne.

Punch will run at Nottingham Playhouse from Saturday 4 until Saturday 25 May.

    Related listings

  • Punch - James Graham, based on the book Right from Wrong by Jacob Dunne (Nottingham Playhouse)

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