Interview with Kerry Fitzgerald

Kerry Fitzgerald is an actor, writer and one half of feminist theatre company, Purple Ostrich Productions along with Lise Knudsen. I caught up with Kerry to find out about her comedy spoof seminar Come Hygge Yourself, which arrives at the King’s Head Theatre next month.

Can you tell me a little bit about Come Hygge Yourself?
Come Hygge Yourself is a comedy show ALL about Happiness! The show is set like a seminar, we all work in the same office, us and the audience…and the boss has allowed us to run this seminar to make the business more productive. We look at where this idea that we constantly need to strive for happiness comes from, we look at chemical ways that we can make ourselves happy and we look at some happy news. BUT Lise and I are playing characters that are pretty unhinged, this seminar will not be going to
plan.

What inspired you to write the play?
We both felt saturated by this constant stream of awful news (who isn’t), we wanted to make something that would examine happiness and therefore explore sadness and depression. Something that might genuinely help us feel better. We love making comedy because we love bringing people joy and we wanted to push ourselves and make an even wackier show. So that’s what we’ve done!

We’re playing Dr. Barbara Beaming and Dr. Joanna Joyful, two Doctors of Happiness (certified from the Russell Crowe school of calm) who gathered you all here today to impart wisdom. But Joy likes to drink. And Barbara is newly single. So WILL we get through the seminar?

How did you first get into performing?
I always acted and sang. I was in drama club and choir from when I started primary school. I spent break times skulking around the playground singing Grease to myself and pretending to be Sandy from Grease when she was all depressed about Danny and singing into a paddling pool. After my mum died I stopped singing and drama for a few years and then eventually found my way back.

Can you tell me more about your production company Purple Ostrich Productions and how it came about?
POP was formed just after Lise and I left The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, we made the company for our first show As You Like It? At the Pleasance. I had studied the play whilst we trained and examined the relationship between Rosalind and Celia, based on my research it was clear that they were lovers, but I had never seen it depicted like that so I wanted to put that on stage. Lise was interested in it so we made the company, got a director and producer, a great company of our fellow graduates and we
did it. We made the company with a view to putting marginalised stories and characters centre stage.

You’ve previously spoken about being an artist-mother to The Stage. What do you think the industry can do to support parents working in the theatre?
I have! I was in a wonderful Edinburgh show last summer, they were very supportive of me having a son, but when they tried to find accommodation for me they found several big letting agents and landlords in Edinburgh said they wouldn’t rent to anyone with a baby. Which I found pretty unbelievable, so I wrote a piece for The Stage about it and its something a lot of people have taken very seriously. There are some amazing initiatives just starting to happen in the last year or two, role-sharing in the West End and a creche up in Edinburgh this year, childcare schemes…. PIPA is doing wonderful things to
change the industry.

One of the main things that will help parents working in theatre is when the shift in attitude happens, when people stop thinking that having a baby or a toddler discounts you from a job or means you can’t do certain things. This idea that it takes something away from you as an artist or individual when actually it GIVES you so much. More strength, imagination, fire. Lise and I both have young children now so how we run the company, how we make shows, that’s changed. And we love it!

Can you sum up Come Hygge Yourself in three words?
Bonkers. Funny. Feminst.

What would you like audiences to take away from the production?
I would like people to come away feeling joyful, feeling empowered and …. Slightly aroused? Maybe?

Come Hygge Yourself is showing at the King’s Head Theatre on Wednesday 10 July as part of its Playmill season. 

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