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The RSC’s new Juliet

Super-modest and down-to-earth Glaswegian actress Karen Fishwick is a girl after our own hearts here at Muddy – “passionate” about drinking and good food!

Streetwise: Karen Fishwick Photos by Paul Stuart

Karen Fishwick was first spotted by the RSC’s Deputy Artistic Director Erica Whyman in Lee Hall’s sweary, raucous and brilliantly funny Olivier Award-winning musical, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour at The National, London. She was playing Kay, one of six rebellious Catholic teen schoolgirls on their way to a choir competition – amid knocking back Sambuca shots and blasting out ELO hits.

The talented 27-year-old makes her RSC debut as Juliet in Erica’s explosive modern-day version of Romeo and Juliet at the RST, Stratford-upon-Avon this summer opposite Coventry actor Bally Gill. Unbelievable but true, she’s engaged to her own Prince Charming! She met fiancé Andrew Keay, 29, on the set of Cinderella at the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy, Fife in 2014.

Like Romeo and Juliet – was it love at first sight?

It was! He came over on the first day of rehearsals and said: ‘Hi I’m Andrew’ – it was a very calming thing. As far as wedding plans go, we’ve looked at two venues. I’d quite like to wear blue and we’ve both decided no fudge!

OK Karen give us the basics… 

I grew up in Glasgow. My dad was a professional bass trombone player with the BBC in Glasgow and now teaches; mum’s a primary school teacher. I have an older sister who’s a TV editor and a younger brother who’s a personal trainer and moving out to work in America.

Karen as Juliet. Production photos by Topher McGrillis © RSC

Did you have any idea Erica Whyman (RSC’s Deputy Artistic Director) was in the audience of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour at The National, and had her eye on you for Juliet?

Absolutely not. I didn’t know who she was. Our Ladies… was ending and I got an email from my agent at the time saying: ‘I have an audition and you’re going to love it’. I rang him and I couldn’t frickin’ believe it!  It’s one of these phone calls I never even imagined!

What was the audition process like?

Erica’s so full of care for every element of the play. She really puts you at ease and makes you feel every thought you have is valid. That’s such gorgeous equality if you’re an actor! Vicky Featherstone (who directed Our Ladies…) is like that as well. After a meet in London I did a couple of days in Stratford with a voice coach, went to see Coriolanus and met Bally for the first time. We met for a pint of cider at The Dirty Duck!

What’s your Romeo like?

Bally – he’s just gorgeous, very generous and has the most energy! He comes in every day full of life and he owns the language. I’m lucky he’s my Romeo – we look after each other.

Any quirks about Erica’s new version of Romeo and Juliet you can let us in on?

It’s really contemporary – as close to present day as possible – and Verona is London-esque. We’re in streetwear. It’s scary watching the fight scenes. There’s a real sense of the danger of being in certain urban environments in the wrong place at the wrong time. We’re in 2018. but the heat is cracked up to nine.

There have been 50 violent knife-related and gunshot killings so far this year in London – has this had a bearing on Erica’s urbanized reimagining?

Yes, we had a talk from The Ben Kinsella Trust about the fight against knife crime. Ben was a young teenager stabbed to death in Islington. The music is really beautiful and moving. There’s gorgeous live strings by the composer Sophie Cotton mixed with grime culture running through the play.

You’re playing Juliet is a real modern-day teenager, how would you describe her?

She’s much more still than I am, very smart and problem-solving. If Juliet was to go into a profession she would be a paramedic. She’s locked away in this capsule, doesn’t have friends her own age to mix with, apart from her cousin Tybalt, who she’s close to. She reads, is educated and, as I discovered, has a bit of a temper on her!

What would your parents say you were like as a teenager?

(*Laughs hysterically) They’d say so moody and grumpy!

You had a fair few boozy nights in Our Ladies… – but what’s your tipple of choice?

I feel quite passionate about drinking! I love cocktails! The other night we were out in London and I ordered this amazing Chilean Margarita with basil. I can be in different modes – but you can’t beat Prosecco!

Where’s best for a girl’s night out – Glasgow or Edinburgh? 

Glasgow! I tend to end up at Maggie Mays and it always ends disastrously. The Buff Club is also fun – it has carpet on the walls! But I do love a night in with good food and people coming around.

Favourite foods? 

All food – my grandmother’s Greek. I love Mediterranean, Lebanese Turkish and Greek food but I’ve also inherited IBS.  It’s IBS Awareness month and I’ve just bought The FODMAP Friendly Kitchen Cookbook by Emma Hatcher. I’m working my way through the recipes. The low FODMAP diet is the best relief for IBS symptoms.

Photo by Paul Stuart

How’ve you found making your RSC debut in Stratford-upon-Avon?

It’s so exciting. I’ve not come from a traditional drama school background. I went to Motherwell College where I did two years of Musical Theatre (HND) and finished off my BA hons on the Acting course. The diversity of the Romeo and Juliet cast is so exciting too – some have done English degrees others were child actors. My aunt is flying over from Canada to see it and lots of lovely friends have booked tickets.

Is there anywhere you’d like to visit while you’re in our neck of the woods?

The Cotswolds. I like green spaces.

Which version of Romeo and Juliet is your go-to watch – West Side Story, the 1968 Franco Zeffirelliversion, Baz Luhrman’s 1996 film with Leonardo Di Caprio and Clare Danes, or Gnomeo and Juliet?

West Side Story without a doubt!

Romeo and Juliet runs at the RST, Stratford-upon-Avon until Sept 21 and the Barbican London, Nov 2 – Jan 19 2019, rsc. It will be broadcast live in cinemas on Jul 18.

For talks and rehearsal room demos with the cast see here.

Find more ideas here

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