Spotlight On… Casualty’s ‘Duffy’ ~ Cath Shipton

Here at Break A Leg, we’re never happier than when Cath Shipton (AKA Duffy from Casualty) allows us to put the spotlight on her! As you may know, she finished filming a special one-shot episode back in April, so Break A Leg asked her all about the experience:

Picture Shows: Director (JON SEN) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Alistair Heap

Thank you for talking to Break A Leg, the episode that you’ve just finished filming is the special one-shot episode which we’re eagerly anticipating, what are you able to tell me about it?

Well, we got it! We did it and I’m still in a state of numb disbelief and excitement that we managed to achieve what we have achieved. It’s been about a year in the planning and to celebrate the 30th year they were looking for something that hadn’t been done before in terms of continuing drama. Obviously the natural thing to go towards is a live episode and that had to be discounted from the off because they didn’t feel that Casualty could serve the audience by doing that and putting that kind of pressure on the production. There was a lot of publicity around Victoria, the one-shot film and that piqued Paul Unwin’s imagination. I met him last September and he said he was looking into writing a one-shot and we just thought it was a joke. We couldn’t see how it could physically be done without changing the dynamic of the show.

When did you have an inclination that Duffy would be an important part of it?

At the National Television Awards Erika Hossington let slip that I was a major player.

What does the storyline focus on?

It’s set during one hour in the emergency department and the reason we’re seeing this is because there are two seventeen year old girls who are thinking of going into the medical profession, either as doctors or nurses, they’re not sure what they want to do. They’ve never spent any time in an Emergency Department so they’ve come in as observers for one hour. One of them is quite ‘up herself’ and says “mummy thinks I could be a Consultant” and the other one is very nervous and anxious about being in a hospital. She finds the whole thing too much. They as characters have a complete turn around – the confident one gets take down a peg or two and the other one finds her feet, doesn’t want to leave and Duffy notices that.

What made this episode special for you?

One of the reasons I’m so proud about this particular episode is that Paul Unwin set this up with Jeremy Brock and produced by Geraint Morris – and Geraint’s vision for it was that it was the nurses who were at the frontline, it was called ‘Frontline’ for a while as a working title. He said it’s the nurses who soak up after the doctors have made their diagnosis, the nurses not only do the medical side but also the social and psychological stuff, it’s wrap around. This episode puts a nurse, Duffy, bang in the centre. She takes these girls to every department, sometimes she has to deposit them on the side while she does something medical and they wander off or one of them over-hears something and gossips then Duffy has to mop that up. The episode is so well constructed, it really made sense when I read the script. Once the story starts we are living it in real time.

How long did you have to rehearse?

We had two weeks to fully rehearse before committing it to camera.

What were you most fearful of?

Without a doubt those brain freeze moments, it feels like three and a half hours, I’ve had them on stage before – in reality it’s probably a nano-second of time. I didn’t want to lose concentration and for the tape to have to stop because I’ve mucked up. I apologised up front to everyone for calling them their character name on and off set, but it helped me, I had to do that.

So finally, would you do it again?

I woke up the next day wanting to do it again, I still had the energy!

Thanks to Cath for another wonderful interview, I can’t wait to see this episode, watch out for it, everyone!

Featured image photograph courtesy of Cath Shipton. (Photo shows: Chloe – Kassius Nelson, Diamond – Georgia Sandle with Cath)

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