THEY are cousins, were both brought up in the Holme Valley and share a passion for theatre.
Both have gone into the production side of theatre and their work can be seen in Huddersfield next week when a major professional touring company arrives to stage a modern theatre classic at the Lawrence Batley Theatre.
London Classic Theatre’s production of Patrick Marber’s After Miss Julie opens at the LBT on Wednesday. Performances run nightly until Friday and this is the show’s UK opening.
All of which is great news for cousins Kerry Bradley and Katja Krzesinska.
Kerry is a set designer and works mostly as a theatre designer and production buyer in TV and film. She is also senior lecturer at Wimbledon School of Art on the Design for Stage and Screen courses.
This is her fourth set design for London Classic Theatre and she is already working hard on the next.
Kerry, now 40, lives in London with her son and daughter.
She grew up in Oldfield near Honley and went to school in the village before doing A levels at Huddersfield New College.
“Katja’s mum and dad are very interested in the arts and I think they took me to see a production of The Winter’s Tale at Sheffield,” she said.
“I used to go to Marsden a lot with my mum to see Mikron Theatre Company’s shows. And I also went to see companies like Phoenix Dance in Leeds so I just got a fantastic taste for theatre and that’s what got me interested.”
When she was 12, Kerry joined her village drama society, Honley Players.
“I had to go on stage and it was terrifying,” she said.
After that, Kerry helped backstage. “I wanted to be a stage manager and then I started doing costumes and things and that was very exciting.
“There was a good community atmosphere at the Players with all different generations working together.”
Wanting to keep her options open, Kerry took a drama degree at the University of Warwick and then went on to train in Design at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and the National Film and Television School.
“Someone I was going out with said did I want to go and help paint a set. Then I was hooked,” said Kerry.
What followed was a fast growing career which saw Kerry’s skills in demand not just for designing and building sets but sourcing furnishing and props and making costumes.
When we spoke she had just discovered that she had an hour in which to find two benches for a set!
It’s all part of a busy life in which Kerry juggles family, teaching and creating sets for theatre and TV companies both in London and on tour. And she loves it.
Kerry is delighted that she will be back on home territory with the London Classic Theatre show.
“I’d seen the LBT before but never been backstage. Last summer I looked round the theatre and thought I’d like to do a show here.”
And now she has.
With Kerry designing and creating the set for After Miss Julie, the costumes are in the experienced hands of her cousin, Katja Krzesinska.
She was born in Huddersfield and raised in Holmfirth.
“I went to Honley High School and did work experience at the Lawrence Batley Theatre,” she said.
“I did a couple of weeks in the costume department though I’m not sure if that had any bearing on what I did later.”
Katja also appeared on stage as a dancer at the LBT.
Her interest in theatre was more probably driven by her artistic family who took her to museums, theatres and churches. “I remember my grandfather taking me to the opera.”
Katja went to Barnsley College to do a BTEC National Diploma in Performing Arts and an AS level in Theatre Design.
She admits that though she has always had a passion for theatre, she wasn’t certain initially about which route her career would take. All she knew was that it had to be in theatre!
“Fashion has always been a great love of mine. I’ve always dressed myself in a distinctive way and combining that interest with my love of theatre became the way to go.”
On her cousin Kerry’s advice, Katja went to London to train in costume design at Wimbledon College of Art. She graduated four years ago and now 26, Katja is finding her work much in demand.
The production which arrives in Huddersfield next week at the start of a major tour, is her fifth for London Classic Theatre. She has also worked on opera for the Royal Academy of Music and costumed for films, theatre and for photographic shoots.
Katja also manages to squeeze in a job as a head dresser at the English National Opera at Covent Garden.
“I learn a lot working there. It’s wonderful. We are dressing La Boheme at the moment and the costumes are just coming in for the next big production,” she said.
“We get to work with amazing designers. The part of costume that I love is that every time you do a show you are in a different period using different materials and styles.
“You are constantly learning new ways of expressing character through the costumes.
“When all these things come together it’s quite magical.”
As, of course, is theatre. Box office for the show is on 01484 430528.