Actress Susie Blake chats ahead of Cider with Rosie at Cheltenham's Everyman Theatre
MOST actresses would not take too kindly to being interviewed in the car park of a church hall.
But with the sun out, Susie Blake, dressed in a light blue shirt, sits happily on a red plastic chair with a beaming smile.
"I'm sitting here in shirt sleeves in a car park, dear reader, because every room in the building is taken up," she says, laughing outside St Luke's Church Hall in Cheltenham.
Susie, well-known for her TV appearances in Coronation Street and Mrs Brown's Boys, is staying in the town with friends as rehearsals enter their final stages for Cider with Rosie, a play adapted from the classic novel by Laurie Lee of life in the Cotswolds.
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Cheltenham's Everyman Theatre is the venue where Laurie's evocative novel of growing up in rural Gloucestershire between the wars will be brought to life.
"The combination of Cider with Rosie, which is a lovely story, working with Paul Milton (the director) and Cheltenham obviously – you couldn't think of anywhere nicer to work – it's a lovely package," Susie says.
Susie plays the role of Annie, Laurie's mother, in the touching tale which recounts the defining moments in Laurie's adolescent life; glorious outings, frozen white winters, hazy summers, tyrannical teachers, erratic family life and of course that first cider-fuelled encounter."
Director Paul Milton met with Laurie's widow and daughter to discuss how the play should be presented and has taken special care to ensure the accents are spot on. The cast even paid a visit to Slad recently to see where the novel was set.
"We visited the house and it was amazing, it was a very humble abode, near a lovely lake with a very big garden," Susie says.
"You definitely draw on that as an actress. The biggest bonus for all of us is that Paul Milton has been keen to give us an atmosphere of a family in the rehearsal room."
But Susie admits that whilst there is undoubtedly an idyllic quality to the play, it's not all daisies, long walks and picnics."
"We are hoping to show the darker side of things," she says.
"Some awful things happened in that village which the village dealt with and in the book Laurie talks about how if a child did something wrong they were told off and sorted out by the locals.
"You don't want a lawless atmosphere, but sometimes things got seriously out of hand and there were hangings."
Susie admits that the character of Annie is far from the archetypal housewife. "She is very prominent in the book and had a great influence on him," she says, as we shuffle our chairs across the car park to make room for a car.
"She didn't clean the house or do much cooking but she encouraged them in their hobbies and they all had a good grounding in fantasy and fun."
Susie, whose great-uncle was actor Sir John Mills, says that although she will be a bit nervous on opening night she loves performing and will be chomping at the bit as the curtain comes up. She won't be the only one.. Catch the show at 7.45pm from Thursday until March 30. Tickets cost from £12. Call 01242 572573.