I am an absolutely massive fan of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (it was number 5 in my Top 10 Shows of 2016) and its incredible cast. One of its members is Karen Fishwick, who plays the role of Kay spectacularly. She embodies various other characters brilliantly and is just a fantastic performer. Karen was lovely enough to sit down and answer some questions and the show, the music and advice for aspiring performers.
For anyone that doesn’t know, can you explain a little about your career and what your highlights have been so far?
I went straight from high school to Motherwell College where I did two years of Musical Theatre (HND) and rounding off my BAhons on the Acting course. Before that, all through high school, my summers were filled with any creative short courses I could possibly apply for – acting, opera, contemporary dance, circus. I wanted to do it all. I think these were valuable training without noticing it at the time.
Were you born wanting to be a performer or did you have another career path in mind when you were younger?
It was always there though I do remember a brief spell of hoping to become a zoo keeper. I remember playing defense on the school football team; everyone chased the ball to the other end of the pitch while I’d stand there on my own and sing. And thus my dazzling football career came to an end.
Our Ladies is just epically brilliant. When you first started working on it did you know it was something special?
Thanks, that’s kind. No, I mean, you never know do you? You, of course, always hope a piece will be received well, but if you go in thinking, “this could be the next big hit” you’re kinda focussing on the wrong thing. When I first read it, I was amazed at how different it was to anything else I’d ever auditioned for and that was thrilling. That made it stand out for me. I don’t remember rehearsing and thinking oh wow, this is going to be nuts. It was really hard work, that’s all we were thinking. Gotta nail this bit, then this bit. When the first audience response came at the Traverse in 2015, that was the moment. I’ll never forget it.
I saw the show both at The National and at the Duke of York and it didn’t lose any of its intimate feel or charm. Does the way you work at rehearse change at different venues?
Absolutely. With every single new venue we played, as soon as we got onto the stage it was “ok, what are we dealing with here”. We need to know there isn’t one corner we’ll miss flinging this story at. Eye-balling the audience is one of my favourite parts of the show. The sound would feel different depending on how big or small and venue was. The huge rock moments or intimate confessions need to carry the same wether we’re at the brilliantly close Live Theatre in Newcastle or the Theatre Royal in Brighton. Vicky always made sure it was the first thing we’d address.
There are so many styles of music in the show. Does this come naturally or did you have to learn to sing different styles?
A mixture, I think. The classical to rock stuff has different demands. Even within the ELO numbers themselves, they’re songs are eclectic! Martin Lowe, our beyond wonderful MD leaves no stone unturned there and we worked hard with him on each sound. His attention to detail for each different style is what makes the show so successful.
How do you keep your voice healthy? Do you have any vocal rituals?
I didn’t sing in the play I did before this so a few weeks before we started rehearsal, I made sure I was strengthening it up. I found YouTube videos for that (thank you Verba Vocal Technique). I drinks tonnes of water and try to keep on top of tension in my neck and shoulders. Steaming is good. And not being hungover.
Besides yourself, who would you like to see play your role?
Can I pick anyone? Christopher Walken.
Can you sum up Our Ladies in five words?
Messy. Honest. Loud. Touching. Empowering.
Have you had any funny onstage or offstage mishaps in the show?
For sure. I panicked and took off one shoe once. Did a couple scenes without it. I really didn’t know when I’d be able to put it back on. Another time, I accidentally threw a box of candy sticks straight into the face of a girl sitting on stage. Other venues didn’t have a chair there, it was muscle memory gone daft! She lived.
Karen Fishwick (Kay), Caroline Deyga (Chell), Melissa Allan (Orla), Frances Maylie McCann (Kylah), Kirsty MacLaren (Manda), Dawn Sievewright (Fionnula)
Is there a musical or play you’ve seen recently that you loved?
I freaking loved Book of Mormon! I thought it was so funny and done so well. There’s so such much I wanted to see but can’t make; Angels in America, Hamlet.
What’s a fun fact people might not know about you?
My great, great, great, great grandfather was a tiny little mushroom.
What’s your best piece of advice for an aspiring performer?
If you work as hard as you possibly can, you will not fail. You will not. What about luck? Work hard to generate it. Nothing will happen if you don’t work for it.
A huge thank you to Karen for doing this interview!
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour runs at the Duke of York’s until November 2nd 2017