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Caroline Deyga - Cinderella, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour and Beyond

Caroline Deyga may be playing one of the Ugly Sisters in the Citizens Theatre's seasonal production of Cinderella, but she has already been to one ball this year without any need of a fancy pair of slippers. As one of the high-flying ensemble of actresses who brought Alan Warner's novel, The Sopranos, to life in the National Theatre of Scotland's production of a show restyled as Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, the Carnoustie raised actress was nominated with her onstage colleagues for an Olivier award for best supporting actress. Deyga and chums may have lost out, but former NTS artistic director Vicky Featherstone's production of Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall's adaptation went on to scoop an Olivier for Best New Comedy.

“It was a night I'll never forget,” says Deyga. “Going to the Oliviers and living that experience with those girls, it was amazing. Walking up the red carpet, and you sit in your seat, and Brian May's sitting behind you, and Sheridan Smith's on your left, I still don't think it's sunk in, and I don't think it ever will.”

Deyga had watched the Oliviers on TV for years. When she was studying acting for stage and screen at Napier and Queen Margaret Universities in Edinburgh, she and her flat-mates would watch it every year, star-spotting from the distance of their student sofa.

“We would sit there and talk about what we'd wear of we ever went,” says Deyga, “but I never dreamt it would happen. Then Our Ladies came along, and we were doing it at the National when they made the announcement that we'd all been nominated for the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award, and we already knew it was going to the West End, but hearing about the Oliviers as well was just incredible.”

The Oliviers and the subsequent West End success of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour was the culmination of a long journey that both the show and Deyga had made since the production's first run at the Traverse Theatre as part of the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Deyga was cast on the back of being invited to take part in a workshop with Featherstone and Hall on what was then still a play in development.

Deyga was performing on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Lucy Porter's play, The Fair Intellectual Club, about three eighteenth century teenage girls and their quest for knowledge. Even on the strength of a workshop, Deyga knew that Our Ladies was for her. Tragedy almost struck when she was unable to make the actual audition for the show. Fortune smiled, however, when Featherstone and co fast-tracked her through to a second round, citing the workshop as the equivalent of a first audition. Deyga walked into the recalls to find just five other actresses. Featherstone looked at them all, said there were six parts, and there six of them, and left it at that.

Deyga was cast as Chell, the fiercely loyal member of the group whose family life is tinged with everyday tragedy. This is a long way from her character in Stuart Paterson's take on Cinderella, directed here by Citz artistic director Dominic Hill.

“Claudette is one of the ugly sisters,” Deyga says. “She's ugly on the inside as well as the outside. I've never played a baddie before, but it's such good fun being bad.”

This is Deyga's first time working at the Citizens, although she's more than familiar with the Gorbals-based theatre, where this time last year her fellow Our Lady Karen Fishwick could be seen in Hansel and Gretel.

“I've been coming to see shows here for such a long time,” she says, “and really wanting to be in them. I've been really lucky landing with such an exciting company with loads of brilliant people. There's so much going on in the show. We're all playing instruments, and as well as the eight actors onstage, some of the Citz Young Company are in it as well, so it's a really big company, and it really shows what an ensemble can do together. Every day we do all these things, and yet we still manage to make each other laugh. That's so important.”

Drama may not have been on the curriculum at Carnoustie High School, but Deyga had aspirations beyond her alma mater. She joined Carnoustie Theatre Club, acting as a hobby before going on to study at Dundee College for three years. After being turned down for drama school, she took two years out to teach her own favourite subject.

“I loved it,” she says, “but it was a different buzz.”

Acting was where Deyga's heart was, and if being eventually accepted at Napier and Queen Margaret was vindication enough for her determination, it was the day of her graduation that the fun really began. Deyga was still in her gown when she received a call from Dundee Rep, whose graduate actor scheme enables actors fresh out of college to join the theatre's ensemble company for a year. She was offered a place.

“I got my first professional job the day I graduated,” she says. “Everything since then has been bananas.”

While in Dundee, Deyga appeared in productions of Stuart Paterson's play, Cars and Girls, Agatha Christie's classic, And Then There Were None, and Victoria by David Greig. As well as doing more classical work in Hecuba, Deyga also appeared in her first Christmas show, The BFG, as well as flying solo in a community tour of Joan MacLeod's play, The Shape of A Girl.

Deyga combined both of the latter this time last year when she was the sole performer in Flora's Fairy Challenge, a Christmas show for very young children seen at the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock. The year before, she took on the title role in Tracks of the Winter Bear, a snow-kissed double bill of one-act plays at the Traverse, with whom she also appeared in Gary McNair's timely verbatim exploration of macho banter, Locker Room Talk in what thus far has been a non-stop career onstage.

“I just love it,” she says. “I love watching theatre, and I love being in it. I love everything about it. I was an usher at the King's and Festival Theatres in Edinburgh when I was at Napier and Queen Margaret. I've done bits of writing and directing. There's just something about that world that made me want to be a part of it. I'm so passionate about it. The impact theatre can have on people, there's nothing else like it.”

Cinderella may be Deyga's first time on stage in Scotland since the curtain came down on Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour's West End run in September, but the spirit of that show is something she very obviously carries with her, and she is clearly still having a ball.

“It's been really strange not seeing those girls every day,” she says. “We travelled the world together, and the bond we formed will continue. Our Ladies was such a special show, and it will always have a place in my heart. The friendship I have with those girls is something I'll have every day. We're still in touch. It's like family.”

If this is the case, it's a very different kind of family to the one she's part of in Cinderella.

“This Cinderella is full of really unusual but beautiful things,” says Deyga. “It's got a lovely message, and I think people will fall in love with the characters, but they might surprise themselves with who it is they fall in love.”

Cinderella, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, November 28-December 31.
www.citz.co.uk


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