Susie Blake – Interview
by Roger Crow
After decades in showbusiness, actress Susie Blake talks about working with Victoria Wood, playing the straight woman, and working with Joe Pasquale on the Hull leg of the stage play of TV favourite Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em…
Do you think some UK venues work better for comedy than others?
I think it’s different. Nothing to do with this show, but I remember seeing something which I thought was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen up at Stratford. A one-man show, and then I saw it again at Chichester, because it was so good, and it seemed to me that the audience were silent. They all enjoyed it as much. I was with some friends and they were saying it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen, but they just sat there smiling.
It’s interesting that The Play that Goes Wrong for example had a very different reception in York compared to Hull.
I think that’s a very different kettle of fish. I saw it and I struggled with it a bit, because I’m an actor I suppose. I wanted there to be more conflict. I wanted the stakes to be higher. I kind of felt that it didn’t matter what went wrong because that’s what it was about. Where as in our play, things go wrong, but he (Frank Spencer) really doesn’t want them to go wrong. It really matters. But Hull is great. I’ve been there several times. And I’ve been to the beautiful library because I did a play about Philip Larkin. We did a lovely play up at Scarborough about three women in Larkin’s life. And one of them lives just outside Hull; I hope she’s still there. I went to see her, the woman I was actually playing. It was fantastic, and she was very, very funny. So I had a good look round Hull to get the feel for it, and where she worked.
“It’s all to do with believing what’s happening to you”
I enjoyed your performance in Murder, Margaret and Me last year in York.
Oh, I wish we could’ve done it again. We couldn’t coincide, so it went out again but with three different people. I’m really loving getting into the next phase of my career. The next age group as it were. I want to do it nice and early. I met someone on the allotment the other day. She said, ’Oh you didn’t look good on Midsomer Murders. They didn’t do you proud’ [laughs]. I thought ’Yeah, I’m over that now’. I’m even older than a granny kind of thing. I have to say I’m glammed up on this production.
It would be great to see things go full circle and have a TV series inspired by the Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em play. Would you like to sign up for that if the part was offered?
You bet! I have to say this is the happiest company, and everyone is giving 100%. And I’m not just talking about the cast. Everyone from the producers down really care about this production. We all learnt our lines before we started the rehearsal. And we have a very complicated two-storey set, with all the tricks that that entails. Everybody has wanted this to be the best it can possibly be, and I think that really shows, I really do.
How difficult is it keeping a straight face because Joe Pasquale is very funny.
Well people ask me that a lot, but it’s what I do. Since I began I’ve been working alongside comics, and that’s what I do. It’s not funny to the audience if I find it funny. If awful things are happening to you and you laugh. Well that’s it. That’s it gone. That’s the tension gone. It’s all to do with believing what’s happening to you. You have to just believe that’s the situation you’re in and deal with it, and as soon as you begin to sort of ‘be with the audience’ and be objective about what you’re doing, then you can laugh. Sometimes if something goes wrong properly, like it shouldn’t happen, and the audience can see that that has happened, then that’s funny. But if it’s planned I don’t think it’s funny.
“You go through the ringer every night”
It must’ve been a dream working with Victoria Wood.
Oh absolutely. When we did the first As Seen on TV, we were like a naughty little gang of school girls. I certainly didn’t have any idea how massive it was going to be. We were just going around the Acton rehearsal rooms, looking through the window at someone we were madly in love with, running from floor to floor, just having fun. There is one school of thought which means you have to suffer for your art. And another school where you don’t have to suffer for your art… maybe Victoria suffered for her art, but we didn’t. We had a great time, and yes I think maybe there are some of the best performances in tragedy. You go through the ringer every night, but then again so does Joe. I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as him.
As a fan of Bev in Corrie, do you think she would go back to the cobbles one day?
Well she was asked but she politely declined.
So what’s in the pipeline after ‘Some Mothers’?
I think actors get to know about things last. Unless it’s built around you. And I’m not a star. I’m not someone who programmes are built around. I had one thing written for me up at Scarborough, but normally I don’t get to hear about things until three months before or something like that. I hope for the best. I do seem to keep working. I’m the padding, aren’t I?” [laughs]. I’ve been called in the past a stalwart.
‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’ can be seen at Hull New Theatre from 26-30 June, 2018, and is also