Interview: Katy Owen, ‘It’s essential to tour theatre out of London’

Emma Rice’s ‘wild and exhilarating adaptation’ of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights opened at the Bristol Old Vic this week to rave reviews.
As they geared up for opening night, we spoke to Katy Owen about the production. Katy’s performance in the show has been praised by critics, with the Guardian describing her as ‘a standout comic force.’
Fair to say, we’re looking forward to catching the show at the National Theatre, where it opens in February. Here’s what Katy had to say about the show, working with Emma Rice and touring regional theatre.

Q&A with Katy Owen

Thanks for speaking with us as you start rehearsals for Wuthering Heights. How does it feel being back in the rehearsal room?
Without wanting to sound like a tit, it has been really moving and validating. I’m sure lots of freelance creatives have found that lock down removed their sense of purpose. I almost forgot how much I love my job and happy it makes me. I realise what a privilege that is as plenty of people work in jobs they don’t like just to make ends meet. 
What can we expect from this adaption of Brontë’s classic novel?
Emma, our director, likes heightened and theatrical story telling. So, the novel (which isn’t short) is honoured fully but it’s also crammed with music, dance and the rare but precious flash of much needed humour. 
Tell us a little bit about your role in the production.
I play Isabella Linton, a posh, naive young woman who marries Heathcliff. He treats her terribly and they have a sickly son together, who I also play. So, its unusual casting but that’s one of the things I love about working with Emma. She’s one of the bravest and most surprising in that respect. 
Katy Owen in Wuthering Heights alongside Ash Hunter. Photo: Steve Tanner
Is there anything that has surprised you about taking on these roles?
I’m a comedienne so, I always look for the humour and lightness in people. But these two characters have terrible lives. So, I’ve had to be totally committed to their darkness and pain. I’ve been allowed the odd gag and I’m sure I’ll squeeze in a few more as we go. 
You’re touring a number of venues across the UK – how important is regional theatre to you?
I live in Cardiff, so when I come to work in London I am always overwhelmed by the amount of choice on your doorstep. I think it’s essential to tour theatre out of London, so anyone who wants to see different types of work can.
The tour includes over six weeks at the National Theatre. How do you think treading the boards of the Lyttelton Theatre stage will compare to your other experiences the theatres like the Globe and the Old Vic?
I think lots of actors would have a wish list of theatre’s they’d love to play in and all of the above would be on that list. Each is a totally different experience, in the audience they attract and the atmosphere they have. The Globe feels like performing at a gig really. It’s thrilling because you can see all the audiences’ faces and really connect with them. It’s truly live. The Old Vic is over 200 years old and you can almost feel its history when you’re on the stage. I can’t wait (and I’m a little bit scared) to see what the National is like. 
This is your second time working with Wise Children, after the company’s debut with Wise Children – what brought your back to the company?
They are the only people that will employ me! 
Katy Owen in rehearsals for Wuthering Heights. Photo: Steve Tanner
What’s it like working with a director as renowned as Emma Rice?
I have worked with Emma fairly frequently since 2012. So, obviously I think she’s a genius theatre maker. But more importantly, she’s just really nice. She brings together groups of people who are skilled but unpretentious. She runs a room that’s full of commitment and laughter. 
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I’m eternally terrified that I’ve peaked and now I’m on the wane!  Hopefully someone will cast me in a one woman Cats in the West End. An after-hours adult version, where I get my Minnie out. Then I’ll have a highlight. 
Finally, how would you describe this adaption of Wuthering Heights to someone considering buying a ticket for the show?
Full disclosure, it’s not short. It’s a massive novel. Emma has done a cracking job of getting it done at a lick. It’s a dark, emotional ride. The music is epic, performed by an astonishing live band. Grab a lager shandy, have a cry, have a laugh, have a little think to yourself….. Or stay at home and watch Homes under the Hammer. 
Wuthering Heights is at the Bristol Old Vic until 6 Nov, the National Theatre from 3 Feb – 19 March and touring regionally. See full dates here.