The big interview: Susan Lynch on starring in upcoming C4 comedy series ‘The Change’
Stroud Times sat down with revered actor Susan Lynch to preview The Change, a C4 star-studded comedy drama which is set to be screened on Wednesday, June 21 at 10PM.
Written by Matt Bigwood in Stroud Times on June 13th, 2023
Created, written by and starring the multi-award-winning stand-up comedian Bridget Christie, the six-part series follows Linda (played by Christie, from Gloucester), a 50-year-old, married, working-class mother-of-two having an existential crisis prompted by the menopause. Lynch, who lives in Dursley, plays Agnes, one of the eel sisters who run the Eel Café. The comedy also stars Paul Whitehouse, Liza Tarbuck, Jerome Flynn, Omid Djalili, Monica Dolan and Stroud-based Boss Morris – an all female Morris Dancing side.
The Big Interview
Matt Bigwood: Susan, you play Agnes, one of the eel sisters who run the Eel Café and are central to the Forest of Dean community that our main character Linda finds herself in. You joined the cast quite last-minute – tell us how you were brought onto the project?
Susan Lynch: A key member of the cast got COVID, which must have been devastating for her and for the whole cast. So, I came on board. I got the email the day before, so it was a case of trying to read as much as I could in one night. I ended up just trying to learn the scene that I was about to do and trying to prepare the accent. It’s a really difficult thing, taking over from someone who had already done all the work, but I was given such support by everyone. The whole cast were just so incredibly supportive and warm.
MB: When you’d had a chance to absorb the whole story of The Change, how did you feel about Bridget’s vision for the show?
SL: The scripts are just so bloody brilliant, they’re magical. Bridget is just… there aren’t enough adjectives to describe her. She’s one of the most creative, inspiring, compassionate human beings I’ve ever met, and she is hilariously funny. She does everything with a lightness of touch. This story and the way she’s put all these women in their 50s together and shared their wisdom with such humour is inspiring. Each of the characters have got their own innate wisdom and they’re all really colourful.
When we filmed the Eel Festival scenes, there were moments where I was really tearful. Some of it is very, very funny, but some of it is so moving. I was standing there thinking this is incredible, you’ve never seen this before, a celebration of women done with such humour. And not just about women, but about the idiosyncrasies of community and how more than ever, community is what we really need. If you’re dealing with the menopause in isolation, that’s when it’s really difficult. You’ve got this woman running off to the forest and finding this eccentric community, and then coming to terms with everything that she is as a woman and celebrating that with this community – I felt very touched by the whole thing.
MB: You were filming in the Forest of Dean and surrounding areas – what was that experience like?
SL: Where we filmed was so beautiful, really magical. Sometimes you’d turn up on set and the light through the trees was just stunning. Because so much of the show is about reconnecting to nature, we did that organically by being on that set. It reminds me a bit of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where they all run off into the forest and find themselves. It really has got that very magical, heightened quality to it. I found it really inspiring.
MB: Obviously, there was not that much time to prepare before the first day of filming, but what were your first impressions of your character Agnes? How did that develop as you spent more time filming, and what did you think of the relationship between Agnes and her eel sister Carmel [played by Monica Dolan]?
SL: I love Monica Dolan, so to play her sister was just so fab. She’s just effortlessly good. My character starts off quite tough. If you come into the community, she’s going to be really wary of you until you prove yourself and then as the story unfolds, you start to see more of a softer side to her. You start to see her celebrating in the Eel Festival, and really celebrating Linda as the Eel Queen. She’s so of the earth, she believes in nature and the power of nature. She’s also quite sardonic. There were really lovely juxtapositions in her, in terms of her humour and her cynicism. It was a great role. I loved how we looked too, with our caps, the whole look. Then when she goes to the Eel Festival, she’s wearing the sheela na gig and celebrating fertility. She does that with a fierceness, but I love the softer bits to her as well. She unfolded as the story went on.
MB: You mentioned getting to grips with the accent. You have a Northern Irish accent, but your character Agnes has spent her whole life in the Forest of Dean. How did you find her voice?
SL: Weirdly, I’ve lived near the Forest of Dean for about 12 years. So, I was using that and trying to really tune in, but it’s never an accent I’ve done before. Out of all the accents I’ve done I found this most difficult. Some bits are quite similar to Irish, then other bits are just not at all, so I did find it really difficult. I was just keying into everyone else, especially Monica because she was just brilliant at it.
MB: The idea of community is a strong theme throughout the series, especially for Agnes and her sister. What do you think the show says about community but particularly, community between women – sisterhood and friendship?
SL: Where I live, there is quite big senses of community. I don’t know whether that is a rural thing, where because people are slightly far apart, they do make an effort as a community.
In the show, what’s really beautiful is the women coming together and sharing stories. I love episode five where it’s just about the women preparing for the festival and they’re sat talking about so many things, the tiny exchanges between women, about their mothers, how they look, how they feel. It’s a celebration.
The whole show celebrates that we are stronger together than we are apart. I know that sounds like a really cliché, obvious thing to say about community, but there is something moving about that, especially now after COVID, because we all sensed what it was like to be isolated. It’s also about remembering that nature comes first. We’re just little things that go in and out of nature, we are not the big picture.
The Change is a celebration of women, community and nature. And the arc of the female journey. It’s alright to say you’re not alright and things are difficult when you’re going through the menopause. The beauty of what Bridget’s written with the Eel Festival is that it goes into detail about puberty and menopause.
Menopause has maybe been touched on in different TV programmes, but I don’t think there’s much detail of what actually happens. I love that there’s a celebration of the grey bits of being a woman. It doesn’t sound preachy, it’s a celebration, it’s saying: this is what we all go through, and because we all go through it, we shouldn’t feel isolated.
MB: Speaking about the Eel Festival, like you said, it is funny, but it is quite poignant too. During the festival, characters discuss puberty and menopause and repeat the line ‘May all your transitions be joyful’. Did that resonate with you?
SL: It did because it’s so easy to not think of your transitions as joyful. It’s so easy when you’re going through puberty, to be thinking I’m different, I feel insecure, I’m ugly. Then you look back when you’re 30 and go: what was I thinking? I was absolutely beautiful. I was just like everyone else. In the festival, older women are saying to younger women: it’s alright. That’s what I really love about it. I don’t think there’s been anything like this that’s so celebratory of women, and the journey of women. Bridget is so extraordinarily imaginative, you just have to look at her stand-up comedy to see that, and her imagination and creativity has created something about women’s journeys and community without it being ‘them and us’. In bits of the Eel Festival, there’s retorts from the men and she’s written it so it feels like it’s for everyone, it’s inclusive of men. It’s really beautifully done, because it’s emphasising that community is about us all and if we’re going through certain things, it affects everyone.
MB: Agnes and Carmel, as their nickname ‘the eel sisters’ suggests, have to deal with eels a lot in the series. What did you think about that aspect of the story?
SL: Coming out of the water in the waders and getting into the whole thing of being an eel woman was very, very funny. I had big plastic eels – there’s a bit where I’m hammering the eels and I was trying to wriggle them to make them look real. That was hilarious. I didn’t have to eat any eels thank god, that would be too much. But the Eel Café was so beautiful. Everything looks like a beautiful little mirage in the middle of the forest.
MB: What was your favourite scene?
SL: My favourite scene was the one where Agnes and Carmel get Linda out of the caravan. It is so hilariously funny. It was funny when we were shooting it, but seeing it, I absolutely peed my pants laughing at that. And I love the first scene actually, where you first meet the sisters. That was the first scene I did. It was amazing to be in something where there’s just loads of other amazing women. To be around them and that energy was really, really special.
MB: All the stars of the show are women who are aged around 50, playing characters who are their own age. What do you think of that casting decision?
SL: In episode five, the women sat around just talking about being women in a very natural way was really unusual. It’s funny, it’s only when you do something like this that you realise there aren’t many things where you’ve actually been with a group of women. I’ve done a couple of plays that are mainly women, but on TV, it’s a real first. To be tackling these kinds of topics as well and the pride of being every different kind of woman, that in itself was really refreshing.
MB: And were there any other behind the scenes highlights for you?
SL: Just the warmth of everybody. There was a real sense of community and I think that came from Bridget, because that’s the kind of person she is. She’s got an amazing spirit that infects everyone, and that made everyone come together in a really, really special way. So, for me it was the whole spirit of it, so much of it came from her and I can’t praise her enough. She’s just a really inspiring woman.
MB: You’ve mentioned some of the big themes and the way the show’s tackled them, but what do you hope that viewers will take away from the series once they’ve watched it?
SL: I hope they absolutely pee themselves laughing, as I have done when I’ve been reading the scenes, and I hope they really enjoy it. But I really do hope that they, as I feel I have through doing the series, celebrate the idea of being female. And that goes for men as well as women, I hope the show becomes a celebration of women. I’m excited for people to see it. There’s something so refreshing and new about it and some bits that are really moving.
I hope that viewers think about community and of us all talking more about puberty, about menopause, and for women to realise that confiding in each other will always make us stronger than going through these things on our own. If you keep it to yourself, you’re isolated. But if you share, you see these things are part of us. Like now, I’m perimenopausal and I’m very open talking about it because I don’t actually know what’s happening. But if I talk about it with people, I’m not on my own. It makes you feel connected.
The Change will start on Wednesday, June 21 at 10PM with the first two episodes in a six part series airing back-to-back.
Written by Matt Bigwood in Stroud Times on 13th June 2023.
Filed Under: The Change