Lime interview - Theatre
Actor Lucian Msamati takes on the role as the foreigner in his homeland.
Adverts for Bola Agbaje’s play ‘Belong’ are everywhere. So to find out more Lime caught up with the play’s lead Lucian Msamati, to talk politics and artistic direction.
Thanks for taking the time out to talk to Lime, how are rehearsals going?
They are fantastically intense; this is new writing so there is a lot of re-discovery and tweaking which is all part of the process. It creates a lot of magic from the page. We have to make the words live and breathe, that is where the handy work of a lot of brilliant actors comes in. I go home exhausted in the best possible way.
Tell us about this play ‘Belong’
There are a host of great characters. It’s set in London and in the North East of Lagos. It follows the travails of ‘Kayode’ a British MP. After losing a controversial election, he decides to de-camp to Nigeria for a break. He finds himself embroiled in the goings on back home and spends a lot of time explaining to people that he is not an Englishman but a Nigerian. This is essentially the theme of the play, where does one belong?
What excites you about this project?
Many things, it is my first offering of as Artistic Director of Tiata Fahodzi. Secondly it is a wonderful serendipity of many lives crossing. It promotes the British African experience and pushes boundaries.
Playing the lead and appearing once again at the Royal Court Theatre must be a big deal.
Yes, not only do I get the opportunity to tread the boards at one of the leading theatre’s in this country, but I am also bringing my theatre company Tiata Fahodzi here, that is a great achievement. I hope we are saying that we here and a part of this great country.
You recently took on the role as Artistic Director with the African theatre company Tiata Fahodzi, how is that going?
Very well, I have always maintained that my role is to make sure we get rehearsal room within budget with as little political and bureaucratic interference as possible (laughs). The reality is art is about 3% and the rest is politics. In order to make sure great art happens, you have to do everything else.
Have you had much influence over this production?
I suppose I have in a sense that it Tiata Fahodzi commissioned. We have to ensure the writer’s vision is expressed positively and that starts in the rehearsal rooms. We are giving it 120% and having a great time doing it.
I remember Bola Agbaje’s play ‘Off the Endz’ was gritty and real, how did you feel when you read this script?
I was attracted to it because it was not what Bola Agbaje’s is known for, there is no gun or knife crime. It is set in a world of privilege.it explores a different culture. Some people might say Bola Agbaje’s has sold out, but I say no, this will be diverse and interesting.
Did you enjoy going back home to work on the TV series, ‘The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency?
Yes I loved it. The biggest thing that has happened to me professionally has been on African soil and there is a beautiful poetry to that. I felt very fortunate. I have worked hard for those opportunities, passion and sweat can take you to the stars.
I am sure you get asked this question a lot, what was it like working with Jill Scott?
You’re right I do, it was great fun. Jill is quite goofy when the cameras are not rolling. I was impressed that both Jill and Anika Noni Rose was that America didn’t arrive first, those people arrived into the room and America came second. We had the chance to meet the person.
What do you enjoy from being an actor?
I can’t think of any better way to live than to do what I love, not many people get to do this. People have to make choices based on the necessity or practicality of their situation. When people ask what I do, you sometimes get that sneer they think it’s not a real job. But the taxes I pay are very real.
What process do you go through when preparing for a new role?
Interesting question, I am always hopeful that there is enough of a distinction between the previous role and the new one. I step into that vulnerable scary place. I do research if it’s new to me. There is no formula I just dive in and see what comes out.
What is next for you?
There are some Tiata Fahodzi projects in the pipeline. But foremost I will go on holiday with my family and recharge the batteries.
Info: Belong will be running from April 26th – May 26 at the Royal Court Theatre London.
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