It is 21 years since Suzy Cooper made her debut in York Theatre Royal’s famous pantomime.
Since then she has only missed two Berwick Kaler pantomimes – one when she was working on a TV project and the other when she was giving birth to her son Louis – although Berwick suggested she could still go on as Louis was due at least a few weeks before the show opened. She declined.
You would, therefore, be forgiven for thinking Suzy, who appears in Aladdin and the Twankeys from tomorrow, was a regular Yorkshire lass. Not a bit of it. When not touring, home with Louis, six, and her composer husband Christopher Madin is in Chiswick, West London.
“I’m not the only one. Even Berwick only moved to Yorkshire about five years ago. Quite a lot of the cast live elsewhere and just return, year after year, to the York pantomime,” explains Suzy.
“It is a traditional pantomime in the true sense of the word and I think that’s why people love it so much. A lot these days seemed obsessed with the latest celebrity rather than a great script.”
So for the two weeks over Christmas after Louis, six, finishes school, York becomes the family’s Christmas home.
“I am in charge of all things Christmassy and do have to plan things pretty well as once we start rehearsing and then the show starts there is no time at all.” In the past Christmas for Suzy was spent either with David Leonard and his family or that of artistic director Damien Cruden.
But for the last two years she has rented a house in York, put up a tree and decorations and tried to make it as homely as possible. “Louis loves it. He hasn’t really known anything else,” says Suzy who lost her mother last year.
“I have always worked at Christmas and so that is just the way it is. We have two performances on Christmas Eve and then we are back to work on Boxing Day, so there really isn’t time to go home. We find this just works for us and Louis loves it. Everyone knows him and he gets to see the show about eight or nine times, so he’s happy.”
Suzy nearly missed the pantomime two years ago after she suffered pneumonia and coughed so much she broke a rib and ended up with nodules on her vocal chords.
But the show must go on and so Suzy worked through oblivious to how ill she really was. “I am still not fully recovered. I have to be very careful what I eat when I am working and I’m not supposed to have any alcohol. I now suffer from something called silent reflux, where acid comes up from my stomach. I walk round with a bottle of Gaviscon, which is the only thing that helps.”
It hasn’t helped that 2013 has been such a hectic year. After finishing panto she went straight on a five month tour of The Pitmen Painters. Particularly tough on Louis.
“Skype is a wonderful thing,” she says. “When I was away I would Skype Louis every night, which really helped. It is tough, but my husband works from home. We don’t believe in nannies or anything like that.”
Although Christmas for Suzy and her family will just be one day, it sounds like a pretty traditional affair.
“Louis lies in until about 10am – he’s a true theatre child – then we open presents and then take our puppy Boo for a long walk before tucking in to turkey which I am looking forward to cooking in the Aga. And then it’s back to work.”
Aladdin and the magic of panto
Suzy Cooper will be appearing in Aladdin and the Twankeys at York Theatre Royal from tomorrow until Saturday, February 1.
Suzy is back in the role she is famous for, that of principal girl, and this year she will be playing Princess Peke-a-Boo.
Suzy admits that as a child she was terrified of pantomime, but now loves it.
To book tickets or for more information visit www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk