Theatre Review

cuttin it

by Charlene James at The Royal Court

(First produced at the Young Vic.)

This powerful, heartbreaking and haunting piece of theatre begins as a seemingly innocent, upbeat and sweet story about how two teenage girls become friends. This deception which lulls the audience into a false sense of security makes the rest of the play all the more devastating and shocking because this isn’t another ‘nice little’ story. This award winning play by Charlene James, instead broaches the difficult topic of FGM (female genital mutilation) in the UK, and gets it absolutely right. James dedicates the play to the staggering 500,000 girls and women in Europe that Amnesty International estimates are suffering from the life-long consequences of FGM. The play with it’s sharp wit and clever writing is fuelled by a sense of urgency and an anger that will eventually bring any unsuspecting audience member to tears by the end.

It is refreshing to see two female actors on stage, playing complicated and compelling females not stereotypes, whilst taking on the huge demands of the play. Adelayo Adedayo gives an outstanding performance and the acting from the small cast made up of Adedayo and Tsion Habte is brilliant throughout. Adedayo plays Muna originally from Somalia, a feisty, street smart and popular teenager who loves Rihanna and her little sister. Habte plays Iqra, a mild mannered, naive and shy teenager who recently moved to England from Somalia following the death of her family. The two teenagers who at first seem to be opposites, happen to connect and realise they share the same secret: they are both victims of FGM. Muna is scared her little sister will be mutilated meanwhile Iqra believes it is the only way for a girl to become a woman, the only way to be pure for their future husbands, a tradition that must continue…

The imposing set, made up of a concrete block of stairs, is effective in making the audience feel alienated and distanced. This adds to the sense of unease and discomfort we feel as the story unfolds.  That is until the last moments of the play, when the set turns sinister and almost becomes a graveyard for many young girls that are victims of FGM. This eloquent production from Gbolahan Obiesesan and striking image to end is enough to leave the audience thinking about FGM for a long time to come. The message is simple: the estimated 137,000 girls and women living in the UK with FGM (*1) cannot be ignored any longer. Since 1985, FGM has been illegal in the UK and since 2003 it has been illegal to take a child out of the UK to be cut (*2). This alone however, as clearly illustrated in this production, is not enough to stop FGM and more action needs to be taken.

In this harrowing and devastating piece of theatre, we begin by laughing with two school girls and end up weeping as their lives are shattered. The ending of the piece does not particularly come as a surprise, perhaps because of the inevitability of FGM for girls born into this culture. The piece begs questions such as: ‘how is this happening in the UK?’ ‘How can we stop it in the UK until it is ended worldwide?’ ‘Why is this even happening at all?’ This production highlights that FGM has more to do with community, culture and tradition than anything else: “We do it because we have always done it”, “It is who we are” and “We do it because it is our culture.” It seems so impossible and so unjustified that this is happening that the haunting thought: ‘What will make them stop?’ floats in the air like a bad smell as the lights go down. Unrelenting, emotional, moving and intensely uncomfortable: book your tickets for this show now because this story needs to be heard and change needs to happen. Prepare to be haunted for some time after the show.

emeliaEmelia Marshall Lovsey

Sources:

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/female-genital-mutilation-fgm/fgm-facts-statistics/  *1

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/06/female-genital-mutilation-foreign-crime-common-uk *2

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/

Interview with Simon Nader

 

simon nader face

So you are a actor/director, when did you realise acting was something you wanted to do? How did you come to direct?

“Well… I was on stage as a little fat kid aged 10 or 11 and hammed the hell out of my role in Rumble wats it name as The King. Thank Christ is was comedy, I learned how much fun it could be hearing other people have fun and that was it! Actor. Job. Done. As for directing, I had trained at drama school in my twenties, done quite a bit of theatre and film work and assisted a few friends before I was offered the chance to direct a play called My Boy Jack by David Haig. As I had studied scenography as part of my degree pre-drama school, I felt it was a good chance to put my skill set  to the test and basically got the gig by being seen on stage as Timon of Athens by the producers. They liked my characterisation so thought “hmm, give him a go as a director!” So I did, and I loved it!


What do you love about theatre?

Well, if you mean creating it, I love the storytelling element, cliched as that maybe! Not necessarily just through the words either as I work quite visually, I am interested in the imagery you can create as a company with movement and the sound and light for me is integral to creating beautiful moments of atmosphere and tension. As an audience member as well as theatre maker, the best bit is always the same though – transporting characters and the audience to other worlds and making them care.


You also work allot in television, what do you like about filming?

Actually, the very thing I hated when I first started – stopping and starting! I love the fact that screen acting has just as much, if not more, technical craft involved to create work that not only is believable, but looks as good as possible on screen at each moment. I’ve been fortunate to work on a lot of big US TV productions and you really learn a lot from American actors and experienced directors as so much dedication goes into the craft to make it look as good as possible. I also love stepping into a huge set and there being just an army of people working together. It’s awesome! Just as in theatre, it’s a collaborative process with a lot of attention to detail involved by a lot of people.

You direct a youth company in peterborough, tell us bit about your role there?

Ok, so I work with The Young Actors Company in Peterborough and Cambridge, we have been going nearly 50 years and I absolutely love it. I treat the students the same way as adult actors, which they not only appreciate, but benefit from. Yes, we have a lot of fun, but we devise work that says “something” and essentially I try and give them a taste of drama school training as we create theatre and practice the various acting techniques to build confidence and hone craft. 

You are currently taking 2 plays to the Edinburgh fringe 2016, a man with many jobs! Can you tell us bit about the plays?

The show I am directing is very exciting – The Monologues of a Tired Nurse, written by an actual nurse who is now also training as a professional actress, will be at The Space. It’s a two hander with very talented actresses playing the nurses and it’s moving and funny, and very raw. We want people to not have a stereotypical view of nursing, but really think about the human condition. The human condition in all its facets – we literally examine it! 
 
I’m also in, and the co-creator of, a ridiculous, spectacular B-Movie homage called (it’s a catchy title): Escape From The Planet of the Day That Time Forgot! Myself, actor/director Katherine Hurst and actor/director Gavin Robertson, both renowned particularly for their physical theatre work, have designed a show that we unashamedly want people to just sit back and enjoy. We are at Assembly Roxy for the whole of the Edinburgh Fringe and it’s our first collaboration since the acclaimed The Other Side in 2009. We’re also touring internationally. Both Katherine and Gavin are award winning creatives so it is always fun and inspiring to work with them.

You have been to Edinburgh numerous times over the years, what advise would you give to people heading there this year?

Save your money in advance, it can get VERY expensive… Also, don’t underestimate the power of marketing and getting the reviewers in early if you can sway people. Be nice to everyone as word of mouth really is hugely important and for God’s sake, don’t take any shows up there you don’t put the appropriate effort into. It can get pretty harsh, pretty quickly and you get out what you put in… don’t just do it to “do the festival.”

What do you like about the roles of actor and director, do you prefer one over the other?

They both have their attractions and in all honesty, it varies job to job. I love the challenge of acting in terms of the characterisation and making people believe what they are seeing and very importantly, to connect with the other actors in a company on stage as if you are really there. It’s beautiful to create emotion and art and I like to play even during a long run, and go with my feelings, instincts and reactions and have that from the others too and see what happens! I love that no two performances or on screen, takes are the same and I love that little choices can alter the fabric of meaning hugely. As a director, I’d say stress levels are much higher, but the payoffs are huge! You get to see other people work up close and to gain inspiration from everyone’s gifts to create great art. I also love seeing someone progress in confidence as we work together and try to tell a story the way we feel it should be done. 

What would you tell your younger self?

Don’t be such a doubter. Don’t try to overcompensate for your lack of self belief by trying to prove yourself. Trying too hard usually results in bad results.

You also coach people on monologues and have sat on drama school panels. What advise do you give those people auditioning for drama school?

Trust that the people there on panels want you to do well. At the end of the day, you have no idea what panels or directors, casting directors for that matter are really looking for from you. If you are worrying about what they are thinking you’re not being yourself and that is your biggest selling point. If you can eliminate that and then work the monologues a little with some outside advice to help make bold choices then you will feel better and have a better chance of doing well. Generally I don’t care how well someone can learn lines. I do care about whether they have connected with the emotion of it and can adapt to direction. You do not need to be PERFECT. It doesn’t exist and you are going to drama school to learn the technical skills as much as anything else. Panels are not looking for a finished article. What would be the point?! I also care about how you come across as a person. Be lovely, just be yourself and make mistakes then recover confidently, don’t be arrogant and defensive.

Who inspires you?

Artists who care about the work, not just the adulation or the money. That goes for people who make great music and other art forms, as well as actors. My students also inspire me. The way young people can be unaware of their instinctual gifts and come up with something that is more honest and clever than the most experienced professional is always an inspiration.

What issues to feel you face most int he industry?

I think it takes time to take your ego out of it for a lot of people. I’ll use myself as an example as for a while, I wanted to be seen a certain way, hard man types and such and such. Sometimes we can be afraid to look weak, even if that is character but of course, that is ridiculous! If that is your type, embrace it. I got hung up on knowing martial arts, being bald so therefore looking a certain way but physically, I’m quite slight and short so I’ll never be in constant work that way! What I have learned to love is playing weakness, weaselly types, even taciturn outcasts or nice guys. So I’d say my challenge was accepting my type!

Do feel the industry is inclusive and diverse? your thoughts?

I do not feel it is as diverse as it should be at all. I have worked in casting and as an agent as well as my work on stage and screen and one thing I’m certain about is that unless roles are specifically detailed as “other” the establishment which is largely white and middle or upper middle class in England see all roles through those eyes unless they are specifically labelled “disabled”, “gay,” “black” or “Arab” etc. I feel that Hollywood does not get off scot-free either because of the very specificity of identity and perception of type. Bad guys are Middle Eastern or Upper Class English! Heroes in blockbusters are all supermodels or body builders. Now this is not necessarily all the fault of the production companies and the industry – there is an element to humanity and we see it reflected in the media all the time, where people want to see the ideal, see what they are not, as that seems to be shiny perfection. So the industry reflects that as much as the industry creates it! So diversity in the industry is an interview in itself…

Do you feel it is important for an actor to do many roles as yourself and be the creator of their own work? 

I think it depends on each person and what they prefer for themselves. Personally, I like creating through devising and writing as much as I like getting work from other sources too, the collaborations are really interesting. But, as I get older I realise that the important things is to enjoy what you do. If you aren’t having fun, you’re doing it wrong!

Rosemary Akinola

 

rosemary

South Londoner. Will work for food. Favourite colour red. Loves dogs more than cats. Kinda funny.

I first met Rosemary in the halls of Rada, while we were paying our extortionate fee to stand in front of 2 people for about 10 minutes, we bonded over perspiration and sheer love of our craft and also a determination that drama school wouldn’t stop us doing what we love. I’ve been following her and recently saw her face adorning Tricycle theatre. Here Rosemary answer some questions.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an actor ?


Probably when I was around 7 when I did a school play. But I didn’t really take it seriously until I was around 19. Then I was like OK this is the career I want to pursue.

What inspired you ?

That’s such a big question. Urm lots of different things. I guess the main thing that inspires is the love for what I do. I think people, experiences and stories inspire me. There isn’t just one thing.

What excites you and attracts you to theatre?

The story. The performers. The set. I think I’m always interested to see bits of theatre that have a provocative story or if the direction is innovative.

As an actor what qualities do you think are imperative ?


A Peaceful Mind – because this business of acting can be stressful. Keep Calm.

Courage – because it requires you to WORK, FAIL, LEARN and REPEAT.

Entrepreneurship – because being an actor is being self-employed so know your damn business and know what you are selling!

Self Awareness – check your wellbeing: mentally, spiritually, emotionally and financially. Take care of yourself. Your journey and is your own and no one else’s so be kind to you.

You were recently at the Tricycle theatre performing can you tell us more about that? 

Yes so it was an immersive show called Switch. The story is about a post-apocalyptic world where people can no longer thrive on earth so they are choosing to be plugged into a virtual world. I think the development show was somewhat difficult at the beginning because it was a devised as well as immersive with a cast of about 22 people. The process literally was something like: Devise it. Write it. Create it. Play with it. Rehearse. Cut. Edit. Rehearse. Rehearse with audience. Cut. Change. Rehearse.  Create. Rehearse. Rehearse. (Panic – that was me). Perform!

The ending changed every night because it was based on the decision of the audience. It was an incredible experience because the audience where so engaged in what was going on and the feedback was brilliant. We learnt a lot during those audience runs. We were so happy that our audience felt encouraged to participate. It sold out so fast so we’re putting it on again in the summer!


As a black actor what challenges do you face? 


I feel that Black women are constantly in a fight to be seen for roles where the colour of the character is unspecified but don’t get the chance to audition, or go up for those roles because the default race to any unspecified character is always white. I probably don’t get as many opportunities for jobs and auditions as my white counterparts. I think Colorism is another issue I guess. Sometimes they would cast a mixed or lighter skinned black actress who has more European features because they fit the “beauty ideal”. Also having to play stereotypes that are perpetuate a negative image of black women grinds my gears – like I don’t mind playing a bad character but the story has to be there. I don’t want caricatures.

What are your views on drama school training? It is a expensive and competitive avenue, what is your advise and opinion for those who don’t get in? 

I did a year course at Rose Bruford but I haven’t done a three year degree and I was only able to go on a full bursary. I think it is expensive and it is competitive but I wouldn’t rule it out. I think make sure you know why you’re going, what you plan to attain, and understand that it is work like anything else. It’s a good way to learn and grow as a professional but it’s not the only way. There are so many places to train that have courses that are part time, full time and seasonal. There are masterclasses, workshops, seminars, talks, events. I mean there are opportunities to development outside of “drama school” if you look for them. There are teachers at drama schools who work freelance so they are probably teaching in other places as well. I think once you’ve done your research and spoken to a lot of people you will find that there are a ton of resources out there especially in a city like London.

More and more actors are writing and producing their own work, do you think this is the way forward?

I think that’s the way it going – creating your own content. It’s the way to be heard, seen and not bored to death. As an actor you don’t really get that much creative control and a lot of it is waiting around but when you write or produce, well, then you get to tell your own story which is very empowering as a performer and keeps you proactive. Yeah, do it! Make it!


What work would you love to create? Or projects your have at the moment ? 


Possibly a one woman show at some point. I wanted to make a short film about a piece of bacon and an egg on the run from being eaten, but then I realised I was hungry and hadn’t had breakfast!! but wouldn’t that be an awesome debut?!

Actor awareness is about Diversity, with the media and our ethos empathising ‘not enough working class representation’ what are your thoughts?

I think the initiative is great. Acting, like any art, is not about class. It’s for everyone.

Actor Awareness Message

actor

 

What was your inspiration behind the film?

Well it all came from Tom posting on Facebook looking for a writer, what for I had no idea at the time but I said I was up for a challenge. Then he explained that he was (at the time I think) looking for a play to illustrate the point of the then unnamed Actor Awareness campaign. I suggested a film as it is easy to share and that was that! As for the content it all comes from personal experience. Though I’ve never lived with a Simon I have certainly met them; people who have just been able to go to Drama School because their parents just paid, and they have no idea a lot of the time that there are people like us out there. That’s not a criticism of such people, why would they be aware? But in that last scene, John I think is very much mouth piece to my own frustrations as an actor; so that piece was very personal to me, and I agonised over it, treading the line between making the point pissing people off. It just had to be clear from the word go that this was not a demonising film, and I think by-and-large we achieved that.

What was the biggest struggle?

Oh so many. We were funded very generously by our supporters on Indiegogo, but still the budget was tight. We had expenses all over the place and people coming from all over the country, so trying to make a no-expense-spared film with so-many-expenses-spared was up there. But biggest of all we had some pretty catastrophic technical issues in Post and lost a huge amount of footage. Thankfully James (Hayman) of Flawless Films in a genius in the edit suite and was a genius on set so he managed to create the film anyway, but it set the release date back about a month or so.

What message do you think this film sends to the industry?

I think the message has to be that art, in all its forms but in this case acting, should not and cannot be dictated by money and finance. We find ourselves in a situation now where casting directors are writing articles titled, ‘Where have all the working class actors gone,’ and national treasures like Julie Walters are coming out very publicly and saying she would not have made it if she started out in today’s climate. Can you imagine an acting world without Julie Walters? And how many Julie Walters are there out there right now thinking, “I’d love to be an actor but I can’t afford it,” And because of finances, the next generation is robbed of great and wonderful talent of that Julie-Walters-in-the-making. I think that has to be the message of the film; change or we all end up poorer for it. To quote the film, “It’s in their own best f***ing interest.”

Tell us more about Type40Films and future projects.

Type40Films has grown out of ‘The Industry’, and so it has at it’s heart that will to make films for good, rather than making them for the sake of making films, not that there’s anything wrong with that! I want it to have an intrinsic conscience to it, and I can’t give much away at the moment, but our next big project well and truly follows that. It is in conjunction with a charity supporting a very very worthy cause and that will be what the film is about. It’s going to be quite an arty film I think, different tone to ‘The Industry’. It will be longer so we’re looking to push a few more boundaries!  Keep tuned in to our Twitter and Facebook feeds because there will be some news coming very soon about how you actors might be able to get involved.

Having said all that there is some talk of shooting a tiny little horror film, just for fun! So again, watch this space!

Finally, if you could change one thing in the industry right now, what would it be?

I think it would be extend the student loan system to Drama Schools. So those fees don’t go away, the same as Uni, but it becomes available to wider variety of people. I can’t see why it would be an issue really; they still get their money, student finance of various areas still do business, in fact more. So what’s the issue?

And stop charging people to audition. I mean, seriously? Very strange thing to do.

Here is link to the film, please go and watch

http://t.co/M9cWvDiVf4