CARLA Henry has come prepared for this interview - in between us on the table as we sit in the magnificent space that is Manchester’s Royal Exchange she has several sheets of A4 in front of her with hand written notes on them.

“I’ve been warned I haven’t to give too much away,” she said, “so I went through with the cast some of the questions you might ask.”

You can understand the caution as Carla is starring in Light Falls which is receiving its world premiere in Manchester.

“I came up with this to try and sum up the play,” she said turning to her notes. “When light falls at unexpected times and in unexpected places it highlights and exposes the rawness of what keeps families connected forever and that is kindness.

“I thought I’d be poetic there,” she adds breaking out into a broad grin.

That smile rarely leaver her face as she talks about the opportunity she has been give to work in what she describes as “the best theatre in the world”.

Light Falls is an historic production on a number of levels. Not only is it being staged for the first time, it also marks Sarah Frankom’s farewell production as the Exchange’s artistic director. And there’s also a small matter of the original music for the play which has been written by Jarvis Cocker.

It’s the story of an extended northern family all trying to make their way in the world in different ways until a major incident causes them to reconnect with other.

“It’s basically about kindness and the different ways families - and people in general - can help each other,” said Carla.

“It is a beautiful piece of work.”

Carla is no stranger to the Royal Exchange, having appeared in a number of productions over the years.

“This one is quite poignant,” she said, “because it is Sarah’s last production. I was in her very first production here too which was staged in the Studio, so in some ways I have some mixed feelings because I will be sad to see her leave but I’m also so excited to see what she is going to do next.”

After 11 years at the Royal Exchange, the last four as artistic director, in which she helped the theatre gain an international reputation for its original and innovative productions, Sarah Frankom is moving on to become director of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

“Sarah has always been quite amazing to work with,” said Carla. “What I really like is that she can sniff out anyone who is blagging immediately. She won’t have that; she will constantly challenge you as an actor and push you into areas you didn’t even think you could go.”

Carla was born in Hulme and was brought up in Moss Side so the Exchange is very much her home base. She was back at the theatre earlier this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the pioneering TV series Queer As Folk in which she starred as Donna.

“It was one of the first things I did,” she said, “and we had no idea how successful it was going to be. I just remember thinking to myself from the start, ‘this character is hilarious’.”

Written by Russell T Davies, the show looked at the lives of three gay men living around Manchester’s Canal Street.

“Russell is just a genius,” said Carla. “He gave me one of the best character lines I have ever had – “I’m black and I’m a girl – try that for a week”.”

Being part of a new production with Light Falls is something Carla says she particularly enjoys.

“It’s an absolute treat,” she said. “It’s a chance to create a bit of a legacy. It’s a bit like giving birth in a way because no-one has done this part before, you get your chance to influence the way it will be perceived.

“When you get to own the character, that really is something quite magical.”

Adding to the magic in Light Falls will be the music of Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker.

“On the first day of rehearsal I was wondering if he’d come and sing for us, but sadly he didn’t,” said Carla. “But the music he has created is so beautiful, it’s the heartbeat of the play, a kind of Northern hymn.”

Light Falls, Royal Exchange Manchester, until Saturday, November 16. Details from 0161 833 9833 or