The good, the Bard and the panto
Pantomime favourite Suzy Cooper returns to York Theatre Royal at Christmas in Sleeping Beauty but will spend the summer performing Shakespeare in the pop-up Rose Theatre at Blenheim Palace. She talks about both projects.
Sleeping Beauty, this year’s York Theatre Royal pantomime, is written and co-directed by Berwick Kaler but he’s not playing Dame – what’s that going to be like?
Well it will be different; that’s for sure! Berwick taught me everything that I know about how to play a York Panto so it will be great to have him on the rehearsal room floor as a dedicated director. He has had the difficult role of switching hats throughout rehearsals so I’m looking forward to having him out front with his director’s hat on! I will miss him terribly on stage but I’m hoping that he will be referenced throughout it and so we all won’t feel so bereft!
What’s the most enjoyable thing about being in pantomime in York?
Can’t say one thing! The people at the theatre, the warmth of the audiences, the chance to stretch my singing and dancing bones.. and that we know we are giving the best rubbish that there is to give in this genre. I also get to spend time with my second family in York.
What’s the worst thing about being in pantomime in York?
Working on Boxing Day. And being away from my family for the whole of January.
Most memorable moment in the York pantomime?
Audience reaction to Berwick Kaler in my first performance. It was like being at a Queen concert.
Do you ever long for a quiet Christmas at home without pantomime?
Anything planned between the Shakespeare finishing and pantomime rehearsals starting?
Yes. I am taking my advanced Thai Yoga Massage course. I am already qualified but I’m doing an add-on that will enable me to inflict more pain!
What roles are you playing in Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre season at Blenheim Palace?
Lady Macbeth and Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Have you done much Shakespeare? If so, which roles?
I haven’t! I played Snout the Tinker and Mustardseed in The Dream that was directed by Damian Cruden and Lucy Pitman-Wallace at York in ??? Years ago!! Shakespeare is just like any other good writer. It’s not to be feared… it just takes a little longer to decide the meaning of the words at times but the process of finding character and telling the story is the same.
How are rehearsals going for the Rose?
They are complicated! One minute you are working on one play and the next the other. And then there is voice work and physical work, which is all wonderful but fairly ‘life consuming!’
Isn’t your son Louis in the production of Macbeth?
Yes! He is playing Macduff’s son and is also drumming in the opening fight sequence. Louis is very excited to be part of this phenomenal festival. And he is REALLY good! I was hoping it would put him off acting as a career as it’s a lot of hard work, but he is taking it all in his stride and is fitting in with the company admirably.
Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream are in repertoire with Richard III and Romeo & Juliet at Shakespeare’s Rose at Blenheim Palace from July 8 to September 7.
Sleeping Beauty with Suzy and other members of the York panto family David Leonard, Martin Barrass and A. J Powell is at York Theatre Royal from 7 December to 25 January.