Interview: Susie Blake

Susie Blake tells Bridget Galton about playing a good old-fashioned housewife

ACTRESS Susie Blake is appearing at the Garrick Theatre in JB Priestley’s comedy When We Are Married. The 60-year-old, who was born in Highgate, has appeared in a wide variety of stage and screen roles, including playing Bev Unwin in Coronation Street and a sarcastic newsreader in Victoria Wood’s sketch shows. Recent West End appearances include the musical Wicked and farce Boeing Boeing.

What’s it like working with a cast of veterans like Roy Hudd, Maureen Lipman, Lynda Baron, Sam Kelly and David Horowitz?

The upside is we all have a lot of experience – we are not spring chickens. By the time you are past 50, the job is more important than you, so instead of being divas everyone is being incredibly supportive. It’s the happiest time I have ever had on a play.

The play is about three well-to-do Edwardian couples gathering for their 25th anniversary – only to discover they were never officially married.

Gorgeous JB Priestley is very compassionate about people he finds funny. He doesn’t just jeer at them. These characters have all come up through the wool trade in Yorkshire. They are new money, aldermen and councillors and such like. They are terribly self-important. They get together to have a do and are full of food and full of their own success when their bubble is pricked. It’s delicious and the dialogue is wonderful.

Tell us about your character Maria Helliwell.

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Priestley describes her as “red in the face and bouncing”. Apart from the fact that she’s three times the age of a footballer’s wife, she’s the kind of woman whose biggest achievement is making a good marriage to an important alderman. She’s a housewife in an old-fashioned sense of having a big house to run. As she says, it’s a “job”. When the ground is taken from under her, she reaches a point where she’s going to go back to her mother and asks him the big question: “Do you love me?”

You were born in Highgate...

Yes my grandmother was Annette Mills (sister of actor John Mills), famous for sitting at the piano with Muffin the Mule and my grandmother, mother, father and I all lived in a basement flat. I don’t live there now and the only time I’ve been back was to visit Victoria Wood.

Yes, was it good fun being part of that team?

It was incredibly hard work but great to be part of a team who wanted it to be a success. If you can put aside petty problems like that you are onto a winner.

o When We Are Married runs from October 19.