A PLAY focusing on interviews with eight friends of a Manchester Arena bombing victim is coming to the Brighton Fringe almost one year after the tragedy that claimed 22 lives.

#BeMoreMartyn: The Boy with the Deirdre Tattoo was named after a hashtag that trended online across the globe just hours after 29-year-old Martyn Hett’s death was announced and Martyn’s infamous tattoo on his calf of Coronation Street’s Deirdre Barlow.

The play is produced with the full support of Martyn’s family and is created from original transcripts of interviews with those who knew Martyn best following the devastating attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on May 22 last year.

His bereaved friends explored what it is to “be more Martyn” and take the audience on a journey from the cobbles of Canal Street in Manchester to his “legendary” Eurovision parties and his love of pop divas.

Adam Zane, artistic director of Hope Theatre Company, which will be bringing the play to the city, said many of his friends knew Martyn and social media was full of affectionate messages paying tribute to the young PR specialist from Stockport after his death.

“As a gay man I saw how the LGBT community really felt they had lost someone who was a really important part of the community,” says Adam.

“It was important to celebrate his life. His family put us in touch with eight of his friend, ranging from school mates to people he went to university with and some he only knew for six months. The minute we started the interviews with them, it turned into a very different project. We are talking about eight friends coping with the loss of someone they loved.”

Known for his unique take on popular culture, as well as his appearances on Come Dine With Me and Tattoo Fixers, since his death Martyn has become synonymous with living life to the full and being proud of who you are.

He was a long-term fan of Coronation Street and was deeply passionate about the music of singers Mariah Carey and Michelle McManus.

Adam said: “At the beginning of this project, we didn’t quite understand the power of Martyn and his influence on the people around him.

“Having spent weeks speaking to his friends and family, we were in awe of how he transformed people. He changed the life of everybody he met and has since influenced so many more.”

Adam says Martyn’s family have backed the project from the beginning and all those who have taken part have found it helpful in the grieving process to focus on creating something positive out of a tragic situation.

The theatre company has spent its time to date focusing on verbatim productions and stage shows for and about the LGBT community.

All of the interviewees were asked the same questions by the play’s producers, including about Martyn’s many obsessions and passions, which they all had their own touching memories of.

“The interviews are performed word for word,” says Adam.

“Eurovision was a massive thing for Martyn and all the friends we interviewed talk about these themed parties and the costumes they wore.

“We put all these interviews together to create a huge celebration of Eurovision and his life.”

Mike Lee, co-producer of #BeMoreMartyn, said the show is about taking Martyn’s legacy around the country, with performances in London and Manchester, as well as Brighton.

“I don’t think we realised how difficult it would be for us as well,” says Mike. “What carried us through was the impact he had on people’s lives. We took away from it that we should just be ourselves.

“One of the reasons we were keen to bring the story to Brighton, was that we were in Brighton last year with a different show when the news of Martyn’s death broke and dedicated the first night of our previous production to him with audiences giving him a one-minute round of applause because Martyn wouldn’t want silence.”

The new play focuses on the words spoken during the interviews after some of them were previewed at an event last year which included tribute speeches about Martyn and live music.

“The material has powerful messages around friendships and grief,” says Mike. “Verbatim is something we have done since our inception as a company. This is the first time we have looked at something that is so close to ourselves and so close to the actual event. This has taught us that we shouldn’t shy away from this topic. It is really important that people get to hear these messages.

“We were nervous about approaching Martyn’s family and friends so soon after the event. They were all apprehensive at the beginning and they were still very much grieving. They all then started talking between themselves and reassured each other that it was a process that was helpful. They were able to talk about him in a way they weren’t able to do before.”

The stage show will tell the stories of his closest friends, including anecdotes about some of Martyn’s pop icons, such as Michelle McManus, who made a special appearance at his funeral last June to sing for those gathering to remember him.

A recorded tribute message from pop sensation Mariah Carey was also played during the funeral service.

Martyn’s mother and sisters received a prize on his behalf at the Attitude Pride Awards last year, an event hosted by Attitude Magazine, which was founded in 1994 and is the UK’s best-selling gay magazine.

Speaking about the play, Michael Keating, one of Martyn’s friends who is portrayed in the production, said: “It beautifully encapsulates the legacy we’re left with and the message we want people to remember.”

Commenting at the #BeMoreMartyn event last year, former Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, who is also a patron of Hope Theatre Company, said: “This verbatim piece beautifully captures the indefatigable spirit of a very special young man who somehow made the world sparkle a little brighter just by being in it. Beautifully staged and performed, it was a perfect tribute to him and to the city he loved, and left everyone present feeling like they wanted to live a little more fully, a little more proudly, a little less self-consciously, and a lot less seriously. A little more like Martyn.”

You can see the play at The Warren, St Peter's Church North, Brighton between May 29 and June 1.

About Martyn Hett

Martyn, from Stockport, was the digital manager at Rumpus PR, a firm in Altrincham.

He attended the University of Liverpool for two years before transferring to the University of the Arts London, going on to graduate in 2012 with a degree in media and cultural studies.

Martyn was also a Manchester Evening News, Attitude, Heat Magazine and Huffington Post contributor.

As a dedicated Coronation Street fan he was well-known for sporting a large tattoo of iconic soap character Deirdre Barlow on his left leg.

The victims of the bombing have now been remembered in a memorial bench recently added to the soap’s set.