Never Gonna Keep Me Down: An Interview with Micky Cochrane From Carrying David
Updated: Aug 14
Put 'em up, put 'em up! What do you do if you get knocked down? Get straight back up again: this is the affirmation that actor Micky Cochrane adopted this Spring. Due to air at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle last April, 2020 and accepting with a heavy heart that this occasion would not go ahead, he knew in his bones that play Carrying David was 'too good a story' not to fight to tell. "The show couldn't be rescheduled, and Ed Waugh was involved in other work, so I took over as producer and started approaching theatres."
Carrying David opens up the true story of Dipton boxer Glenn McCrory and his brother David. Summoning courage from his terminally ill sibling, Glen smashed barriers in pace to claim the worthy title of first North Eastern World Champion. The play draws on the autobiography of the same name, illustrating how Glen piggybacked David to school every day; it was important never to collect a late mark.
Initially accepting high praise from its first North East run, the show transferred to Northern Ireland, climaxing in a monumental performance at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre. Each audience member rose to their feet in a standing ovation, impassioned memory which still motivates Micky to this day. From its origin, the show had been in the pipeline for a lengthy period before he became involved.
"Glenn was going to do it himself. There has been talk of a film over the years because of the strength of the story. I had been working with Ed on some other performances and a show about another North-Easterner who achieved amazing things, The Great Joe Wilson, in 2018. He asked me about Carrying David, we met with Glenn, and it went from there."
No strangers to pooling their inventive projections together, Ed and Micky go together like bread and butter; working together brings out the best in them with the comfortableness to push their creative boundaries backed by a power field of energy. But the cause of this? The agreeable actor confesses, 'It helps I keep saying yes to him.'
"Ed is a tour de force; he creates work and gets things done. His work bringing local heroes - some of whom have been largely forgotten about - back to life and showing people their lives and achievements is inspiring to me. He has faith in me and my abilities which is great for a performer, and we get on. It's not always easy without a theatre or company behind you, but when you have good stories and the right people, you find a way."
July 3rd, 2019, marked the 30th anniversary of Glenn’s world title triumph, where victory was his at the Louisa Centre: a leisure venue in Stanley only a mere 300 yards from where he lived. Carrying David played the Alun Armstrong Theatre, poignantly located right in front of the Louisa on that night to a packed audience.
"It was full of his friends and family, some of whom I met, including his son, who is also a big lad. I had a look around the Louisa before the show to take it all in. I couldn’t believe there had been a world title fight there; wouldn’t happen today. There is also a documentary, 300 Yards, which is fascinating, including members of the McCory family talking about their brother David, the other focus of this play and the impact he had.
Wanting to submerge in a boxer's life as much he could, Cochrane studied all angles in what little spare time he held. "I obviously need to be in shape because we depict the fight, but I was keen to find out more about training and what fighters go through. I did some training with Glenn to get his style and make that as realistic as possible and to understand what he went through."
As a one-man play, there is an unconventional pressure and a distinct set of demands placed upon an actors shoulders, compared to being able to bounce off other cast members. There is only dear Micky on stage, so not a soul to react to, digging deep to generate a spectrum of emotion on top of impeccable timing for the audience to remain engrossed.
"I did a lot of working moment to moment with the director Russell Floyd, to make sure that I was completely living in each moment and having the right energy to portray each moment or scene fully to take the audience on this rollercoaster journey. Of course, as well as there being no one to react to, there is no one to pick up the ball for you should anything go wrong. With me being the only actor and the producer this time also, there's nowhere to hide. No pressure mate!"
The run knocks on the Stage Door of more theatres than plotted before its cancelled tour. Every venue approached was receptive, even if they could not accommodate the concept this September. Not just Newcastle upon Tyne, but Northumberland and Durham venues join the list, Barnard Castle and a jaunt to the Big Smoke spreads the tale far and wide.
"Everywhere it's been, the show itself already has excellent reviews and standing ovations. It's a case of returning and making sure I hit all of the right beats again. The story is so strong, and the audience invests in it until the final moment. It's a relief to be back live. I did panto at Tyne Theatre at the start of June, and it was great to be out there and great to see people enjoying themselves."
'So you wanna be a boxer in the golden ring?' Or you don't; this is not a performance about sport. Glenn is a boxer who achieved something incredible, but the show is just as much about David, their relationship and the bond they shared.
"It is a very human story with a few twists along the way and an amazing example of triumph over adversity with David, who fought ferociously against a terminal illness inspiring his big brother to keep going against all odds. It will make you laugh, cry and you will be amazed at the set-piece at the end of the play (no pressure again, mate), I promise. I think it has everything."
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Article by Beverley Knight