THERE was a time when Karen Fishwick’s career could have gone either way. 
This week, Karen is starring in one of the best pieces of musical theatre produced in Scotland in the past decade, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. 

However, the 26-year-old with a real bent for comedy, reveals she could well have become a professional musician. 

Karen plays 12 instruments, give or take a glockenspiel here and there, and looked set to make music her career. 

“Both my parents are musicians,” says the actress who grew up in Clarkston, “so I was brought up in a musical household and I’ve spent a lot of time in bands and orchestras.

“Later on, however, I discovered the local drama group. And there was a crossroads time when I had to decide between music and acting. Really, it could have gone either way.”

Those who see Our Ladies will certainly be glad Ms Fishwick decided to opt for acting. Her performance is grabbing, and she reveals a range of characters. 

“I love the show,” says Karen. “The audience response still catches us by surprise because we’re all inside this big machine, so it’s hard to fully appreciate what’s happening. But being in this show really is living the dream.”

 If anyone assumes Our Ladies to be a gentle play soaked in Scottish Catholic tradition with a pious, quasi-religious message-instilling undertone they couldn’t be far wrong. 

Our Ladies is a risqué, sometimes sweary and very realistic portrait of what happens when six schoolgirls of an age of personal discovery discover what it’s like to get very drunk and turn carnal thoughts into reality. 

Based on the book The Sopranos by Alan Warner, Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall’s adaptation tells of the choir singers who travel from Oban to Edinburgh to take part in a competition.

But the competition becomes a drink and sex-fuelled orgy set to ELO music, which surprisingly, works incredibly well when transposed into six-part harmonies.

“I wasn’t that familiar with ELO music, but as soon as I learned Wild West Hero I realised how good it was.”

Karen adds, grinning; “I’m a sucker for a good cadence.” 

The show very much taps into the natural talent onstage of the likes of Dawn Sievewright, Frankie  McCann, Kirsty MacLaren, Melissa Allan  and Caroline Deyga. 

“The rehearsal process was like a playground and we all had a chance to show what we could do.”

Karen in fact  plays more men than women, some would-be suitors, some perverts desperate to gain the girls’ attention, in the show. 

“It’s fun,” she says, grinning of playing men.  “We all enjoy these bits. We worked on them hard and now it’s funny to play them out.”

Karen, who has appeared in Glasgow Girls and worked at Pitlochrie on leaving drama college, looks to be a comedy natural. 

 “I think I’m just a bit of a clown,” she says. “And all the girls are absolutely hilarious. 

I think the rehearsal room was such a safe environment and it wasn’t hard to release the goofy. “

She wasn’t a clown at school however. 

“I think I was more like Kay Clarke at school,” she says of her prim character. 

“In fact, most people in my year will probably be surprised to learn I’m an actor. I was quiet. I was the girl with the trumpet on her back. I just lived for music and drama. 

“But as is so often the case with actors, when you get onto the stage you turn into something else. I guess that’s because that’s where you feel most comfortable, where you feel nothing can stop you at times. It’s such a cliché but it’s so true.”

Nothing can stop Our Ladies. Karen and co are will take off on tour to the States and Ireland in the summer. 

 “It was so funny going to the US Embassy with the rest of the cast, to get our visas and trying so hard not to be like the girls in the show. We would never have been allowed in.” 

Yet, although acting has won out, Karen’s love for music hasn’t diminished. 
“My trumpet teacher always reminds me at every lesson, ‘Now, remember Ewan McGregor is Grade Eight in French horn so keep on practising.’ And it has held me in good stead. 

“And I’m still learning. In fact, my 90 year-old aunt is currently teaching me cello. She’s pretty awesome.”

Yet, Karen feared the family’s love for music could have had a negative impact on her wedding plans. 

“When my partner came round at Christmas the family ended up playing a brass quartet and I thought ‘Oh, no. He’s going to dump me!’   

“But it’s all good and we’re going to get married, so it’s all good.”

l Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, Lomond Auditorium, SECC, Glasgow, until Saturday.