Lime interview - Theatre
This month Lime Magazine gets talking to the talented writer behind the hilariously biting satire that is Blackta
What is your play Blackta about?
Blackta is about a group of friends, all competing in a competition in which there is only one prize and no such thing as second place. It's about claustrophobia and thwarted dreams and when friends become frenemies.
You are best known for your work as an actor, why did you decide to write a play?
I'd been writing a lot of film scripts and not getting much joy with them. People kept suggesting I should write a play. There was this collective frustration in the air, amongst black actors myself included. It’s best to write about what you know, so one day I went home and started penning down scenes based on me and my contemporaries. I didn't plan for it to be satirical but then the world of acting can be so absurd that I suppose it just fitted that medium.
Do you plan to write more plays in the future?
Oh yes! I'm half way through my third play. It's addictive writing plays. The most satisfying thing about writing plays is that you create a world and people in it who get brought to life.
Do you relate to any of the featured characters in Blackta, if so please explain?
I relate to all of them, in that they are inspired by people I know, but especially Brown. Brown has a lot of my traits and is essentially a man propelled to think outside of the box. The type of individual that sees a dead-end ahead and veers left.
Do you feel that you or your peers have faced race-related discrimination whilst trying to make it as an actor?
Well in fact the idea behind my play Blackta came from a conversation I had with a group of actor friends. One guy recounted a story of how he told another actor about a role he was playing in a TV drama and his friend said: “'Oh, you're playing the Blackta part – you know, the friend to the protagonist. The sidekick”. We laughed in that moment but it was in part out of sheer frustration that in fact the playing fields aren’t level. Amongst my group of friends we would often find ourselves auditioning for the same part, usually that part would be the drug-dealer or the guy-done-good from a broken home.
What advice would you give to other young males who wish to pursue a career in acting?
Advice I'd give to young aspiring actors is go and train at a top drama school, hone your talent, then strap on your armor and go to war! Perfect the art of auditioning and you'll be just fine, but get in the habit of creating your own material, write a play, understand every aspect of your craft and you'll reap the benefits.
The cast is quite small, were you able to encompass your vision with just seven characters?
The cast is small. Strangely though, Blackta is a beast of a play. The themes and journeys are so epic, and the stakes so high at all times that it sometimes feels like a cast of 20. I like exploring things on an intimate level, as an actor, I want to write parts that people want to play. My only regret is not having a female character in it, but I think the black -tress story is its own thing all together, an experience I know nothing about, for obvious reasons. But somebody should write it!
Please answer our special issue question - When was the last time you did something to give back to the community?
I'd like to think that being an artist you are always working tirelessly to give back to the community. I hope that, as an actor/writer I've inspired people, who maybe didn't think they had a rightful place in theatre, and the arts. I could do more and would like to do more direct interaction with local issues. I'll just keep trying to expose all the negativity with my plays.
Info: Blackta plays at the Young Vic from 26 October - 17 November 2012.
Allyson Ava Brown
interview with Gary Lloyd