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Interview: Isy Suttie

PUBLISHED: 17:29 27 May 2011

Isy Suttie

Isy Suttie

(C)2011 steve ullathorne, all rights reserved

Already known as Dobby from Peep Show, Isy Suttie brings her acclaimed one-woman musical love story set in a supermarket to the Norwich Fringe Festival this weekend. SIMON PARKIN reports.

Isy Suttie is best known as Dobby from Peep Show and as Kiki in BBC2 sitcom Whites, but she has also been performing musical stand-up since 2003 and is noted for her heartfelt, funny songs.

After a sell-out run in Edinburgh and fresh from Sydney Arts Festival, she will be performing her cult one-woman show Love Lost in the British Retail Industry — a comedy musical love story set in the unlikely setting of a Midlands supermarket — as part of the Norwich Fringe Festival this weekend.

The appearance is the comedy culmination of the festival and will see her sharing a bill with the biting wit that is upcoming Belfast comic Ruaidhrí Ward, self-styled lesbian feminist comedian Hilary Koe, American stand-up Carrie Anne Guthrie and Norwich’s fast-rising comedian — and wannabe ‘rock chick’ (ever since she got an electric guitar for her 12th birthday) Louisa Theobald, who is already a Guardian award winner.

Love Lost in the British Retail Industry features a bored, lovelorn checkout girl, her vegan love interest, a scary American singer-songwriter and an ancient fairy godmother. All the parts are played by Isy — as is the music.

Dripping with dreams and heartbreak, it’s a story of unrequited love in the shopping aisles and perfect for anyone who’s ever suffered sweaty palms at the prospect of asking someone out.

When did you first get the idea of Love Lost in the British Retail Industry?

I do a song about dancing in Sainsbury’s [in my stand-up show] and when I was writing my first show I was thinking ‘what shall I do? What do I like doing the best out of the stuff I’ve already got?’ and that song was one of them so I just messed around and kind of built the show up around that song really.

Do you have a love of supermarkets?

I used to work in one, the one in Matlock that it’s set in. I wanted to set it in a supermarket because I think it’s quite an artificial setting, like a hospital, lots of luminous lights and it’s not a place where you’d expect to fall in love, so I like that. There are four characters and I play them all – it’s basically the only four accents I can do!

Do you think people can fall in love anywhere?

Yeah, you would think that. People used to fall in love in concentration camps, it just shows how the human heart can triumph in any awful environment, obviously a supermarket isn’t as bad but it’s an artificial environment, it’s not somewhere you’d expect people to meet. There’s always opportunities in offices as they’re very flirty places.

You also play the music in the show.

It’s just a guitar now; I did have piano in it at some point, but then I realised I couldn’t play the piano! I can play to grade 4 but there’s a difference between sitting there and playing and actually being on stage and having to sing and look at the audience.

You won a Daily Telegraph jazz award when you were young. How come you took the comedy route and not a music career path?

I don’t know if I thought about how I wanted to end up, but I knew I wanted to play music in some capacity for a living — and act. I’ve been writing since I was 10 or 11 and that’s something that’s always come quite naturally to me; I did try and do serious music for a while but I just wasn’t good enough, I think, at writing ‘folky’ songs – or whatever category I would have fitted into if my lyrics didn’t have a comedy bent.

Do Peep Show fans stop you in the street?

I get recognised a bit, but not like so much that I can’t walk down the street. I sometimes get a message on You Space, like one from a guy asking me to take a picture of my hands in gloves and then underwater and at first I was like ‘oh my god, this is mad’ but now I’m a little bit more used to it.

Are you still fond of Dobby?

Yeah... big time; she’s like I would be if I cared a bit less about what people thought.

■ Isy Suttie will perform as part of Norwich Fringe Festival at Take 5, Tombland, Norwich, May 28, £15-£12, 01603 508050, www.norwichfringefestival.com

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