Caroline Deyga has had an absolutely incredible journey with the creation of Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour. The Scottish actress has committed so much time into perfecting her role as Chell, one fifth of the Catholic choir girls who are ready to embark on personal adventures. The show is currently on at Duke’s of York Theatre until 2nd September; there is enough time to grab yourself some tickets! We spoke to her after seeing Our Ladies… live (It is a jolly good show) and find out more about Caroline, the play and what the future could potentially lie ahead.
When did you first hear about Our Ladies?
Caroline: Well I was actually involved in one of the workshops for Our Ladies so I was involved at quite an early stage and that would have been November 2014. I was asked to go down, all I knew was I was going down to a workshop for a show that was at that time called The Sopranos because that’s obviously the name of the book that the show is based on. Obviously I had an idea in my head of what that might be and then when I got the script through it wasn’t anything to do with American gangsters it was about Scottish choir girls, which was amazing!
I read the script on the way down and the minute I read it I just thought it was extraordinary unlike anything I’d ever read or seen before which made me really excited about it. I also realised how much of an important part music was going to play in it which ended up being what we worked on as that particular workshop was integrating the music into the show. The workshop was developing the script and then it just crossed everything in the hope that when they actually started casting it that I might be able to be seen for something but in actual fact I during the workshop played the part of Chell, developed the part of Chell and then here I am now still playing Chell so I feel like she’s been a part of my life for a very long time, so yeah that’s been amazing.
I went to see Our Ladies a couple of weeks ago, It’s really good by the way!
Caroline: Thank you!
What were your first thoughts? ‘cause it is a very in your face play compared to most plays.
Caroline: Whenever you read anything it changes quite a lot from when you first read it to what it actually ends up being on the stage. And especially with this show because the rehearsals and all the creatives it had were very, sort of everybody got to share ideas and create things and everybody devised it together. The script was the bare bones of that and that is all still in there, but through developing the male characters in the show as well as developing each of the girls and the relationship they have with each other I think that’s where all the in your face-ness came out. Obviously the swearing and things like that was in the script to begin with and there was an element of it being shocking when I first read it of course ‘cause I think it is shocking.
I think what’s good about that is that so few pieces of theatre represent that aspect of women and there are very few shows that I can think off where women are outspoken and speak those words. In that way I kind of think that it’s quite important because the reality of it is that we absolutely can swear like men and there are lots of plays and films like Trainspotting or whatever that exist that show that side but nothing that really shows that from women. So that in a way was kind of one of the things that pulled me towards it was the exciting bit of that was that it was representing a side of women that you don’t really see otherwise and that’s what makes it an important piece of theatre I think as well.
Did you ever meet Lee Hall?
Caroline: Yeah Lee was in rehearsals with us and has been since the beginning he’s a massive part of it with us.
What was your first impression after meeting Lee Hall?
Caroline: Yeah he is a massive name and yet one of the most sort of, quiet, kind, I can’t even think of the right word! I just mean you have an idea in your head of how somebody that famous and well known might be and then you meet him and he is just like your pal from the minute that you meet him. He is very generous and giving with us and absolutely took on board everything that we suggested about characters. I mean we’d even find ourselves when we were sitting at lunch one of us might do something or say something funny and then we’d go back after lunch then all of a sudden it had made its way into the script. That was because you know Lee sort of had this feeling that that we were the girls and who can you better ask to represent what real young Scottish women might be like than a bunch of real young-ish Scottish women.
So he’s a massively generous and a kind man, I can absolutely see why people just fall in love with him when they work with him, and it was evident that he loved being in the rehearsal room. That just made it such an open place where you could share and play and obviously the play is very playful so all that stuff came from that atmosphere that was created by him and Becky and Imogen and Martin. But he is the loveliest man and I’m massively proud to be in a production that has been written by Lee Hall you know? He’s incredible.
Obviously because Our Lady is a very foul mouthed play have you ever seen audience members walk out before?
Caroline: Well I think maybe what’s happened for us is that over a period of time with us doing the show for as long as we have there is an element of we sort of become a little bit immune to the swearing and things. We have ‘cause obviously we’re doing it all the time but I’m never blind to the fact that people may well be offended and shocked by it. I think the thing about it is that there are lots of people who have said they would have walked out or felt like they were going to walk out but then something made them stay and that was maybe the singing or it was a particular character that they hooked on to or it was that they’d kind of fallen in love with the girls and therefore could look past the swearing.
I’ve tried to focus more on those people than the ones that walk out but I totally understand that people may well be offended by it and they feel the need to leave. It is a real shame and I wish that they’d stay and ride it out with us especially when you see people leave quite far into the show and you think ‘god you’ve sat through quite a lot of really bad stuff it’s not really gonna to get very much worse than that I wish you’d just stay’ but you know again that’s part of the joy of being part of a piece of theatre that evokes something in people and it might be that some people don’t like it and I absolutely respect that but the amount of people that also fall in love with it because of that, you just have to weigh it up I guess really.
At first sight did you expect that many ELO songs?
Caroline: When I did the workshop it was ELO songs that we were working on so I knew that was going to be a prominent part of it from the beginning. So I knew that, at that time there some different songs that we were working on in the workshops that didn’t make it or were changed by the time we got to the actual production. I mean there are songs that have changed from when we were on tour to being here in London so you know the show’s always evolving musically I didn’t really realise on the way down to the workshop how prominent music was going to be in it but obviously it is a massive part of the show.
I like the fact that it’s ELO and things because these girls, the show is kind of set in the 90’s and that’s a time before we really had access to things like YouTube and iTunes so young people’s record collections were made up of the influences from their mums and dads. This is obviously how the music is in our show as well it’s Kylah’s Mum and Dads record collection that’s made it into the playlist for the show and I kinda love that bit about it as well that’s quite a beautiful throwback to the 90’s of that time before these things were readily accessible.
Did you expect to win an Olivier award?
Caroline: No, never. To be honest every amazing thing that’s ever happened with the show I don’t think any of us ever expected! I think whenever you create a piece of theatre you always hope that it will be well received and that people will enjoy it especially when it’s something you’ve enjoyed creating so much, but I don’t think any of us ever anticipated any of the amazing things that’ve happened and definitely not the Olivier Award! I mean Frankie and I joked about it so the day when the nominations were announced and somebody messaged our group chat saying “Has anybody seen the nominations for the Olivier award?” And it came out that the show had been nominated for Best New Comedy and we were all screaming either vocally via voice message or just in text speak like screaming at each other about it. Then when we found out that we’ve all collectively been nominated for Best Supporting Actress that just completely blew our minds, because although we were at The National (Theatre) I think we’d kind of sort of not thought about the Olivier’s.
It just wasn’t on our radar because we knew the West End charter was coming up I think we thought you know that we wouldn’t really be acknowledged in that kind of way. If ever then definitely not till we got here so when that stuff all happened after a turn at being at the National Theatre it really did take us by surprise. Then being at the Olivier Awards you know in loads of ways being nominated and actually just getting to go felt like we’d won millions of awards just by getting to do that. Also by somebody saying that we had done something we had created that was up there with the best theatres in London at that time it’s quite an amazing thing. When they announced that the show had won Best New Comedy that was mind blowing, but in a weird way it was kind of funny. We experienced in real life kind of what the girls experience in the show which is you know you’re going for this competition in this big city and sort of experience that for real, but to be able to share all that with the girls after everything we’d shared with each other after two and a half years to get to go and do that together was you know extra special. It’s something amazing that we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives, you know?
Do you think you’d have a different perspective if you saw Our Ladies from an audience perspective? Would your thoughts change or would you notice different things?
Caroline: yeah I know what you mean because I was thinking about that the other day actually and it’s hard because I’m so immersed in it now. With it having been such a massive part of my life for two and a half years, I don’t know, I think if I was an audience member I would definitely be shocked by it because I remember how shocked I was by when I first read it. I think if I saw it that would be even more shocking you know because reading something’s one thing but seeing it and having it sang at you and done in front of you, I think I probably would be shocked. I think I would really love the music because I think with Martin’s arrangements that he’s done with the songs are extraordinary and I think watching a group of women, especially Scottish women, watching them up there you know plucking notes out of thin air and singing the harmonies Martin’s arranged is amazing.
I guess the only thing that I have to go on about how I would feel as an audience member is when we were in rehearsals and the swings were doing their rehearsals, so that’s the only time really that I had a chance to sit out and watch while Kirsty, who’s my cover, was up playing Chell and just the strength that comes from that group of girls and obviously I know what if feels like to experience that when you’re in it but to actually sit and watch it, it made me feel empowered and proud, massively proud and actually getting to hear the songs without having to think about my harmony lines. So actually getting to hear the whole thing was really extraordinary.
The girls totally blew me away when I watched them and that’s quite a strong feeling to have because I’ve done the show with them every night for all that time and yet sitting out the front I was blown away by them all over again. I think it would probably make me think a lot of things from when I was a teenager as well probably if I sat and watched it. You know this play about growing up is always going to make you think about when you grew up I think that’s true of any audience member who comes you know male, female, young, old I think everybody has a little bit of them that connects to something for them. I think I mean you probably would be able to tell me better you having been an audience member yourself, but yeah I think everybody has a little something that it makes them think about when they leave the theatre and that’s what makes it an important piece of theatre that it makes people think and feel.
Before Our Ladies what was your original goal as an actress? Like was there a specific like performance you’d want to be in or?
Caroline: Not really, I mean I always wanted to be in a musical. I’m not musically theatre trained at all, but I love musicals and I always wanted to be in a musical. Although we’re not billing ourselves as a musical at all, we’re a play with music rather than a musical. I think the amount of music that’s in this is certainly the most amount of music that’s ever been in a show that I’ve been involved in so I sort of feel in a way that I’ve achieved that goal with this particular show. Apart from that I didn’t have like specific parts that I’d always wanted to play or anything like that, probably ‘cause you know I really love new writing and so therefore I think there might be an element of the part that I really want to play maybe hasn’t been written yet. You know in terms of absolute dream goal role but I feel very lucky to be doing this and I think this has ticked a lot of career goal boxes that I could have ever had and you know what happens after this who knows but I’m massively excited about it.
Melissa isn’t in it anymore you girls have been together for quite a while, how long did it take to get used to that change?
Caroline: Well obviously whenever you change cast over for things that’s always gonna feel strange because Mel was the only Orla that we’d ever really known and then we had Joe come in last year who covered for her a little bit. Isis who’s playing Orla this year has absolutely made the part her own and so what’s really lovely about this show and the company of people that we work with is that everybody’s welcome with open arms. So there was an atmosphere created instantly where Isis could come in and create her own version of Orla and do it the way that she wanted to in a way that’s very similar in lots of ways to what Melissa did with Orla because that’s what the part is, but also in a way that allows her to do her thing with it. It also keeps it fresh for us as well because she’ll do things slightly differently which mean we respond slightly differently and that’s what keeps it alive and hopefully the show is gonna exist forever now.
We will at some point sadly get too old to play these parts eventually so there’s gonna be some girl out there somewhere that’s gonna take over Chell one day and I hope that she has a total ball doing it and gets to put her own stamp on it. I am massively proud of the fact that I’m the first person ever to have played it and that I created the role, but I think with every new generation that comes along they’ll breathe new things into it. What happens with theatre it evolves all the time and that’s the exciting thing about it. It’s what keeps it fresh and exciting, but Isis and Laura and Katie who are the two new swings this year as well feel like they’ve been here all along. They really do feel like they’ve been here all along, that’s kind of what the feel of this company is and it’s been really lovely so it didn’t take too long. We’re all quite open so we just accepted what she was bringing because it’s phenomenal and it’s fun and she does an amazing job with it.
What way your favourite place to perform? Now you’ve reached the West End and you’ve performed at Fringe, is that too difficult to choose from?
Caroline: Well they’ve all been really different, I mean really really different, obviously when we opened at Fringe we opened at the Traverse Theatre. That’s always going to have a special place in all of our hearts I think because that’s the first time we ever unleashed the show on an audience and that was the first time we ever got any kind of indication about what the show meant to an audience. We got so wrapped up in rehearsals and sort of forgot that an audience would eventually see it and have their own opinion of it. The way that it all just took off from there was incredible and that’ll always be really special by being able to take the show to America and Australia will always be incredible as well to play those places.
I think for me personally my favourite place we probably took it was Dundee rep because I worked there for a year when I first graduated. I did the grad scheme there so in a way it was like me getting to take the show home. We went to Dundee after we’d been in America so we’d been playing to an American audience who obviously take the show in a totally different way than what it’s like to do it in the UK. Then it was like taking the show back home to Scotland and unleashing it on a Scottish audience again and the response we got there was just madness! So I think that will always be an really extra special venue for me being able to take it back there where it all started for me, you know with this particular show and where I’m at now so that was really special.
That’s excellent, and because obviously you worked at Dundee was Our Ladies developed at Dundee?
Caroline: No it was National Theatre Scotland that did Our Ladies and we developed it and ‘cause I’ve been kind of working for about four years Dundee Rep was the first thing I’d ever done when I left. I did a few other things and then Our Ladies came along, but it was the National Theatre Scotland that did Our Ladies. We developed it in London for a few weeks to begin with and then we went back up to where National Theatre Scotland was based at that time and rehearsed there for a few weeks. We opened at the Edinburgh Fringe and then took it on tour in Scotland and we finished in Newcastle that year. Then it was the following year when we toured all these other places including America and Australia and we took it to the National and this year we’ve obviously come back to do it at the West End so yeah that’s kind of been the journey of it.
After the West End what would be the next step for Our Ladies?
Caroline: I honestly don’t know and I probably couldn’t guess either because I couldn’t have guessed any of the things that have happened with it so far. Whatever it is, I think the show’s had such an impact that it’s just going to continue to grow in whatever form that is and already there’s like a whole generation of young women that are in drama schools that are doing Orla’s monologue for auditions. It’s kind of made it’s stamp and I hope that just grows in whatever form it can. I don’t know you’ve got me thinking now what could possibly happen next?
What would you want to happen?
Caroline: … I don’t know. I genuinely don’t know, I guess the West eEnd would have been a massive goal for it not necessarily expected, but obviously lots of shows that begin as small productions if you like, we hope that one day we’d get a West End chance so I’m kind of happy just living this bit of the dream at this moment in time and whatever mad thing happens with it next I will roll with that absolutely.
Do you think there’s a possibility the run would extend?
Caroline: Well I don’t know because I’ve never worked in the West End before so I don’t know enough about how that goes. I don’t really know how it’s decided when a show extends, but I mean we’re still here till 2nd September so we’ve still got plenty time to make our stamp and if it continues beyond that then amazing, but it depends how much of our raucousness the West End can take you know.