Susanne Crosby well remembers the celebrated 1970s TV adaptation of Emile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin.
It gave her nightmares.
Now she is revisiting it from an altogether different perspective, playing Thérèse’s mother-in-law Madame Raquin in Wick Theatre Company’s production of the late-19th-century French classic: “What makes it so good is that you just never know what is going to happen,” Susanne says.
Young and beautiful, Thérèse Raquin is bored and unhappy in an arranged marriage to her first cousin, the sickly Camille. She is carefully watched by her oppressive mother-in-law, but despite this embarks on a reckless affair with her husband’s childhood friend, Laurent. In constant fear of discovery, they make a fatal decision…
“I was quite small when I watched the adaptation on TV,” Susanne remembers. “My poor mother couldn’t have known what was going to pop up on the screen. I remember the morgue scenes! I had nightmares! But when I read the play, the play ends slightly differently.
As for Madame Raquin: “For an actor the role is incredibly challenging. It is the most challenging role I have ever played. It has got absolutely nothing that I can connect with. I have had to find absolutely everything myself in order to play her truthfully. She is such a fussy woman. She is constantly worrying about everything. She is always wrapping up (the sickly) Camille. She is always worrying about what he can eat because of his stomach. She is the complete helicopter parent, always hovering around him.”
And amid this all, Thérèse is completely taken for granted, ordered around and ignored: “If you imagine 30 years of being treated like that, and then the dashing Laurent comes in. He sees everything that they have got and he wants a slice of it. You can completely understand why they fall in love. I don’t agree with what they do, absolutely not, but you can understand how that repression can build into an explosion. At the beginning you see Thérèse and Laurent happily in love. It starts there and then everything just basically falls apart for everybody after they commit the dreadful act and then they are haunted by it. It destroys everything. You can’t condone what they do, but you can understand how somebody so downtrodden can be pushed towards that moment of anger and passion.”
December 12-15, the Barn Theatre, Southwick Street, Southwick. Curtain-up is at 7.45pm. 01273 597094.