In Gentleman Jack, Suranne plays Anne Lister, a 19th century lesbian landowner given her nickname because of her taste for dark, masculine clothes.
The production’s intimacy director Ita O’Brien, who has worked on a wide range of TV and theatre shows, says she consulted a lesbian handbook compiled from Lister’s coded diaries to ensure the sex was always authentic.
She said: “I was looking at several books and I got hold of the lesbian handbook again to make sure I’m looking at the focus and equality of queer relationships.”
Ms O’Brien said one of the challenges was helping the actresses playing Lister’s lovers to feel valued, when they sometimes had no lines “other than sexual noises”.
She said: “We have to make that person feel really important because she’s an integral part of the drama – so it wasn’t just an empty moment of full-on orgasm.”
Producer Faith Penhale said hiring O’Brien was a positive reaction to the #MeToo movement.
She said: “A huge part of Anne Lister’s life was her sex life. She was very sexually active and loved having sex with other women. You have to think about how you take care of the people who are going to play that.”