Last week LGBTQ Arts’ Jezza Donovan interviewed Dawn Sievewright from ‘Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour’ at the Duke of York’s Theatre. It’s a show that’s certainly made an impression on the theatre world over the past couple of years, receiving many great reviews. Read on to find out more.
J: Tell us a little bit about you and how you came into the arts?
D: My Mum is a Latin and Ballroom dance teacher and my Dad owns his own sound and lighting set company. He started off as a sound engineer, so I was involved in music and dancing from the age about of 4. I actually ended up going to a place called the Dance Cot in Scotland when I was 15 to study and to do musical theatre at the same time as doing my exams, and then I just knew that I wanted to work in theatre in some form. Dancing was my entry into it all, and then when I realised that I enjoyed singing and acting as well I thought to do musical theatre. I ended up going to drama school down in London (The Guildford School of Acting) when I was 17 for three years, and then from 21 that’s been it really. So it wasn’t that anything just kind of struck me. As a child, I always wanted to be in the limelight; I always wanted the attention, so I’m sure that’s probably got something to do with it!
J: How did you hear about ‘Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour’ and what attracted you to it?
D: So I was actually on a show at the time up in Scotland and a friend of mine called me and she said ‘Listen, I’ve just been workshopping this play, it sounds SO up your street’ and I was like ‘Oh, I’m really interested what it is’, and she was like ‘It’s about a group of young Scottish girls’.
I’d just done a tour of a play called ‘Glasgow Girls’ which was kind of in the same vane, it’s a true story about a group of young Scottish school girls fighting back in politics, grouping together and really coming at life quite hard. The part that I played was similar, she was a feisty young teenager, so after I’d heard about it, the seed was planted in my mind and I went searching, so obviously contacted my agent, and then I’d worked with Vicky Featherstone, our amazing director, before, so I was straight online to her to ask ‘what is this amazing play you’re doing, I want to be part of it, I want to be part of it!’ I got a call when I was busy doing something else, asking me to come down and workshop it at the Royal Court, but I wasn’t available, so I had that whole thing where I thought ‘oh no I’ve ruined it’, that it was one of things that’s just gonna have to pass me by because the stars don’t align but after that, I don’t think I’ve ever chased a job so much! I just knew in my heart, I read the book the shows based on, the novel ‘The Sopranos’ and after reading it and reading the part of Fionnula I thought this part is so close to me, as an individual. I thought – I can’t let this pass by, I have to have to keep chasing it, so I did, and then when I got it, it was amazing, it was everything that I’d ever wanted.
J: What can audiences expect to see? What do you hope they’ll take away from it?
D: Audiences can expect to see a story about life, a story about growing up and finding out who and what you are. Also it’s a group of girls just running at life at 150 miles an hour, helping each other through all the problems and obstacles that they find in their way. It’s definitely an experience, you’ll come out feeling changed, hopefully, or affected by some part of it, but it’s definitely an hour and 45 minutes that won’t leave you the same person you walked in.
J: I saw it the other night with my friend and we both came out thinking ‘Wow that was an experience!’
D: I mean a lot of people don’t like it, a lot of people leave, a lot of people walk out, they find it too much, but I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to anybody afterwards (including strangers) when you come out, that haven’t been affected. You know, it’s either shock or, I don’t know what is, it’s kind of like a rollercoaster isn’t it.? It comes at you quickly, and so fast and so full that by the end of it, you feel like you’ve just come off this really amazing rollercoaster ride
J: What resonated with you about your character, how have you found playing her and bringing her to life?
D: Oh it’s been amazing, I read it, and I was just like, god she’s totally me, this is me, on the page. Fionnula thinks that she is the leader, she likes to think that she’s in charge all the time so she hides behind this really strong, bossy, aggressive exterior, but actually she doesn’t know who she is, or where she fits in. Obviously the sexuality thing comes into that, that’s nothing that I’ve ever really struggled with, but that comes in part and parcel with her personality and trying to find out what is what…she totally just speaks without caring what comes out of her mouth, she makes fun of people, she is kind of unnecessarily aggressive, but it’s all down to not knowing what she’s doing with her life. I think I’ve struggled with that, like when I was a teenager especially, and in my early 20s just racing at things and going for it loud and aggressive, and trying to hide behind this really bolshy character when actually there’s stuff under that you just don’t want to deal with.
J: Could you describe the show in 3 words?
D: Life…hope…and youth
J: Dawn, whats next for you?
D: I am going into a production at the National Theatre, I’m doing Pinocchio, which will start at the end of September. We finish on the 2nd September with ‘Our Ladies…’ and then I go into rehearsals about two and a half weeks later, so it’s gonna be a big change doing a Disney show after this (laughs) it’s a bit of change but yeah. ’Our Ladies…’ has been in my life for three years now, so it’s gonna be hard to say goodbye to the character cause I’ve been with her for quite a long time
‘Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour’ runs at the Duke of Yorks Theatre until Saturday 2nd September, 2017. Book now.