Lime interview - Theatre
Allyson Ava Brown
This month Lime caught up with the phenomonal actor and songtress Allyson Ava Brown to discuss her role in Chè Walkers new play
The Etienne Sisters.
Now that rehearsals are underway, can you tell our readers a bit about what they can expect on stage?
You can expect pure drama and great music. This is a piece that hits you head on. You will not be lulled to sleep!
Can you tell us about the character you play?
I play a character called Bo. Without giving too much away she is what some would call wayward, a real opportunist whose heart has been closed as a way of survival but she has a real journey in this story. You really get to see the truth of who she is.
Do you see any of yourself in your character?
On paper there is very little of myself in Bo, she is almost my polar opposite! We couldn't be more different. But I relate and connect so deeply to things that she feels underneath the surface. She is so reminiscent of characters in my own life that I know her very well indeed. In that sense it's very close to home for me.
Your TV and Theatre acting credits include Casualty, Doctors Crowning Glory and secret diary of a call girl,
what was it about the story of The Etienne Sisters that drew you to this production?
So many reasons with this one! The fact that someone has trusted me to play this character who seems so far removed from who I am perceived to be. There is no bigger draw and stretch for an actor and not many wouldn't jump at the chance. And of course Chè Walker! He is truly brilliant at what he does and his pieces always offer that little bit more for actor and audience alike. It's an amazing team and Theatre Royal Stratford East has become like a second home for me. They have really got the community aspect of theatre right. It is my favourite theatre and I'm always interested in what they are doing so for me it was a no brainer.
When did you know that you wanted to be a performer?
Since I was 3! I saw a Ballerina on TV and was so entranced by the magic of it all I said "Mummy that's what I want to do!" So she sent me to dance class! Clearly dance wasn't my future but performing was and it was a great way to express myself from a young age and gain confidence. From there, when I got older I auditioned for anything and everything going. It was like an adventure to do it all as a child.
In 1998 you was awarded a MOBO for best unsigned act and then recently you was nominated for a best actress award for your performance in Swallowing Dark. Being talented in both acting and singing which do you prefer and why?
I have no real preference if I'm honest. Both go hand in hand for me and when I can't do one I feel a little bit lost. Being a husky girl I have to really look after my voice which means I am grateful for breaks when I am just acting as I can live a more balanced life. To be considered for both awards was and still is crazy to me! I have never won so much as a raffle so both were a complete surprise. Surprises which I am thankful for none the less.
What is it like combining your singing talent with your acting skills?
Singing and acting has always been very separate for me so to combine the two is wonderful, especially with the music they have in this show! Anoushka Lucas and Sheila Atim have written some incredible songs and Nikki Yeoh plays them all so beautifully! I want the album and I want it now!
What does it take to be successful in this industry ?
Hard bloody work and the skin of a rhino hide! I am so envious sometimes of my friends with jobs where you can go on a couple of holidays a year and leave your work at the office! That's not the case for us. It can't be as you represent yourself so have to put the extra work in as its you out there. The rewards can be great but they are certainly not promised. I guess the real answer to that is success is relative. I'm thankful to make a living doing what I love but I'm just another chick trying to pay my rent. Nothing more but certainly nothing less.
Why should audiences come and see The Etienne Sisters ?
Because it's a brilliantly written piece of theatre. That is so non-theatrical it could be your gritty Channel 4 drama. Also it's so rare to have three female actresses and no one else sharing the stage together in strong lead roles let alone three black actresses. We are so passionate about it and excited to share it with you. It's an emotional and sometimes very dark ride but with Chè Walker what would you expect!
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