An Interview with Actor Suzy Cooper

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Suzy Cooper is in 2019 celebrating her 25th pantomime at York Theatre Royal. She’ll be treading the boards as Princess Beauty in the annual pantomime, which this year is Sleeping Beauty.

Here she talks about the joys of panto and its physical demands, as well as her first love of dance…

This is your 25th pantomime at York Theatre Royal – why do you think you’ve stayed so long?
I made a decision that my Principle Girl was to be a character role rather than the traditional straight girl. There’s longevity in comedy and Berwick (Kaler, long-time Dame and pantomime writer) enjoyed writing for me. I’m grateful! Voice is all part and parcel of building character. And once you’ve found the voice of any character in any play then you are halfway there. So I don’t really see it as ‘putting on a voice’ rather stepping into character. Over the cold season colds and flus spread through the theatre and protecting our vocal health is always paramount and sometimes impossible.

Who do you play Sleeping Beauty?
Princess Beauty, a cursed princess who pricks her finger and falls asleep for 100 years. There’s something deliciously satisfying about coming to the theatre and knowing that has to happen. Berwick doesn’t deviate too much from the central story but the chaos that ensues around it is pure Kaler madness.

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“Dance was my first love”

How exhausting is pantomime?
It is physically very demanding especially when we move into two shows a day which we have for about three out of the seven week run. Your body goes into a sort of panto lockdown, fully functioning only when on stage. All other times are spent preparing for show time. But that’s fine… it’s what you sign up for!

Didn’t you once go on when suffering from pneumonia?
Yes. I was poorly in rehearsals and couldn’t shake my cough. It got worse and worse and eventually I coughed so much that I actually broke a rib. I was looked after by a wonderful Dr in York who knowing that I was unable to rest, gave me enough drugs to get the job done. I spent most of stage time floating about under a haze of steroids and pain killers. I was fine.

You began as a dancer, then switched to acting- why?
Dance was my first love which led me to take my training in musical theatre at Laine Theatre Arts. Very early in my career I was involved in a car accident and told that I had sustained an injury that would leave my arm unable to fully straighten. I pragmatically called my agent who represented mostly dancers and told her that I would never dance again and if an acting job came up that I would love to be considered. Within a month I was starting rehearsals for Noises Off, a brilliant farce by Michael Frayn. I got a proper acting agent and that was the start. My arm did indeed fully recover!

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“I’m a perfectionist”

Any dream roles you’d like to play?
I just like doing good work and am always thrilled to work with people who want to work with me! I have no burning ambitions to play particular roles. Whatever I do I want to do to the best of my ability. I’m a perfectionist in that respect and value any job I undertake. I am very grateful to be an actor.

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.

‘Sleeping Beauty’ is at York Theatre Royal, 9th December 2019 – 25th January 2020


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