Suzette Llewellyn is an actress, who is known for her roles as Sister Cheryl Patching on Surgical Spirit, Estelle Vere on Doctors and Sheree Trueman on EastEnders from 2019 to 2021 to name but a few.
She’s now treading the boards on stage again, and currently playing Doctor Baugh in the latest touring production of Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning classic play Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. She spared us some time between shows to answer a few of our questions ahead of the run at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich next week.
Let’s get straight to it… given that it’s been such a difficult year for the arts industry and creatives such as yourself, how did you personally keep yourself occupied over the past year?
I had a good lockdown. I think I can say that. I’ve heard some people use that phrase in regards to WWII, that they’d say they had a ‘good war’. Anyway, I had a good lockdown. I was with my family, and we enjoy each other’s company, so it was a treat to be together more than we’d been for a long time. Finding different ways to entertain ourselves and each other. I wrote a sitcom with a group of actresses I work with, and we organised a read-through over Zoom with actor friends. It’s a work in progress so I won’t say any more about that. I had time to do some good work on my allotment which was joyous. I find great peace in working outdoors with any part of nature.
I also created an anthology in response to the murder of George Floyd. It’s called ‘Still Breathing: 100 Black Voices on Racism’ with actress Suzanne Packer published by HarperCollins. The proceeds of which go to The Ashdon Jazz Academy: ashdonjazzacademy.org.uk. The charity was started in 2015 by Trisha Muirhead after her daughter Ashdon ended her own life at the age of 14. Ashdon struggled with peer pressure, peer aggression at school and lacking confidence about being herself in a society that pressures young women to be and act a certain way. The charity works with vulnerable young women aged 11-21. They assign mentors with a mentee on a 1:1 basis. Although operating for 5 years this charity punches above it’s weight and already has a waiting list. We are proud to support this work.
You’ve done a lot of screen work too – given they’re quite different mediums, do you prefer stage or screen?
It’s the role that I enjoy more than the medium. With stage, you do have more control over your performance of course and that is satisfying.
Let’s talk about your upcoming show, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – what can you tell us about this production of a classic?
It all takes place on one hot evening in Mississippi at the Pollitt family home. It’s about a wealthy family, their secrets and lies, their hopes and fears. It’s about yearning, it’s about love and it’s about loss.
Your character, Doc Baugh, is a role that was originally written for a male. How has it been translating that and what can you tell us about your character?
The gender change hasn’t shifted the character. The doctor is one of the two characters that is outside of the family, so having her be a female is a neat balance I suppose. She has to deliver a painful truth and has not been exactly straight forward with handling that truth.
You’re touring with this show to a few different places, how has it been so far?
The play has been well received. The audience in Liverpool have been the most lively so far!
Next up is Ipswich at the New Wolsey Theatre. Do you have any connections to the region, and how does it feel to be a part of their reopening season?
I played at the New Wolsey during the 80s, when Dick Tuckey was artist director. I did about four or five plays there!
How has it been adapting to the Covid regulations within a theatre setting – has it been a challenge?
I have found theatre under Covid restrictions simpler than filming has been. I’m getting more used to the routine of testing weekly and at times daily.
Now theatres are reopened and there is a wealth of new shows to see, tell us why people should come and see this show…
Tennessee Williams that deploys language with a poetic punch. It’s a powerful play and this is a well performed production.
For a little bit of fun – if you could work with any creative, who would it be and why?
Robert Lepage and Ex Machina, the work is surprising. It’s visually stunning and grabs you emotionally.
Lastly, where can people find you online?
Check out stillbreathing2021 on Instagram.
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof runs at the New Wolsey Theatre from Tue 12 — Sat 16 October. For more information or to book visit wolseytheatre.co.uk.
You can also find out more about the show from our feature: grapevinelive.co.uk/cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof-comes-to-ipswich.