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Kate Duchene interview - 'Suzy Storck is a bit like the opposite of Yerma'
Following Ellen McDougall’s inaugural production as the new artistic director at the Gate Theatre, The Unknown Island, the UK premiere of Magali Mougel’s play Suzy Storck opens at the theatre tonight. We spoke to the actress Kate Duchene, part of the cast of four, about what the play is about, which focusses on a woman who doesn’t want to have kids, and the societal pressures on woman to have children.
It’s the first time Suzy Storck has been performed in this country, what is the story about?
It’s about a young woman who doesn’t want children, and the consequences of then having children. She’s cornered by her own personality and by the social expectations about having children. It’s very interesting because it’s a subject that’s hardly tackled. I battled to have children, I was one of the ones who was desperate to have a child, but there are woman who just don’t want children. One of the characters talks about how it’s “against nature” to not want children.
And you play the woman’s mother?
Well, I was hired to play the mother, but I asked if I could be chorus, because it makes much more sense if there are two main protagonists and two chorus who play other parts. I find it really satisfying because it makes it feel very Greek too. You have a really modern play with a Greek tragedy feel to it. Though, it’s very funny as well.
You said you were desperate to have kids, has doing this play allowed you to see things from a different perspective?
I’d say I acknowledge the pressures there are about having kids. I never questioned it, but I know there are women who do. I think society’s attitude to women who don’t have children is usually one of pity. I don’t think I ever pitied anyone for that, but in general I think they are pitied even though they made the choice not to have children. I’ve not seen a play tackle anything like this before.
And you do see plays that are about the opposite kind of thing, like Yerma…
Yes, it is like the opposite of Yerma.
How are rehearsals going?
Really well, it’s such a different way of working to how I’ve worked with Katie Mitchell in the past. Katie works with the idea of a fourth wall, so that the audience is looking at something. Here, we’re very aware of the audience, we talk to them. There isn’t the same emphasis on back history, and it’s very interesting to work in that way.
Have you worked at the Gate before?
I haven’t, I saw Ellen’s [McDougall, Gate artistic director] first show, The Unknown Island, and I really loved it. I loved being talked to, and I loved being fed. We don’t feed our audience like they did. The length of it is very interesting, it’s a long, narrow room.
Ellen isn’t directing this, but has she been in rehearsals much?
I haven’t spoken to her about it, but she’s been in rehearsals and I think some of the notes that come through are from Ellen. Jean-Pierre [Baro, director] is French, so he can’t hear accents. He wanted us to be always working in our own accents, whatever the part we’re playing because it seems more authentic, and also more interesting because we’re all very different. I was doing a slight accent for one of the characters, and I got a note about that which I knew was Ellen because Jean-Pierre wouldn’t have heard it!
And how is working with Jean-Pierre in the rehearsal room?
I’ve really enjoyed it. He’s very bouncy and volatile in an interesting way. It makes things exciting. He likes things to be in the moment and funny and real. He’s got a very good eye for for theatre. The only thing that’s concerning me is that we have to wade through toys, the tech is going to be interesting... wearing open-toed sandals and wading through toys. My main thing is just trying not to fall over!