11 Questions with The Convert’s Jude Akuwudike

Jude Akuwudike in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Jude Akuwudike in The Convert. Photo by Marc Brenner.

Jude Akuwudike plays Uncle in The Convert which is currently running at the Young Vic until 26 Jan. We’ve posed him 11 Questions to find out more about him and his character:

1. What are you usually doing 10 minutes before the show begins?  

I am usually playing music and going over some of my Shona.

2. What was it that first got you interested in theatre?

I first got interested in theatre by watching it.

3. Can you describe your character in The Convert in three words?

He feels disinherited.

4. What can the audience expect from this production that’s different to anything they may have seen before?

They should come in with open hearts, minds and spirits.

5. What language do you wish could speak? Or Do you speak any languages?

I would like to learn to speak many languages from my home country Nigeria. I would also like to speak at least three languages from North, East and Southern Africa.

6. What’s your favourite midnight snack?

I rarely eat late but I love avocado.

7. Who do you think must see this show before it ends its run?

Everyone should see it.

8. What play or film have you seen recently that has had a lasting emotional effect on you and why?

I saw Translations at the National Theatre. 

9. What’s the most memorable moment from working at the Young Vic?

The most memorable moment was realising my Shona was actually okay.

10. Which country would you like to visit and why?

I would like to visit China or India because I think both are great civilizations. 

11. If you could be an animal for one day, which animal would you be?

I would be a fish to experience the world from underwater.

The Convert is now playing at the Young Vic until January 26. Tickets are now sold out but returns may be available on the day of each performance. Speak to our Box Office for more information on 020 7922 2922.

11 Questions with The Convert’s Pamela Nomvete

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Pamela Nomvete in The Convert. Photo by Marc Brenner.

Pamela Nomvete plays Mai Tamba in The Convert which is currently running at the Young Vic until 26 Jan. We’ve posed 11 Questions to find out more about her and her character: 

1. What are you usually doing 10 minutes before the show begins?  

I’m usually going over my Shona!

2. What was it that first got you interested in theatre?

When I was doing my A levels my best friend asked me to be her partner in a drama festival. Since then I was bitten by the bug of theatre!

3. Can you describe your character in The Convert in three words?

I would describe her as the – Mother of Zimbabwe.

4. What can the audience expect from this production that’s different to anything they may have seen before?

There is heart and soul in this production. Three generations from the African diaspora storytelling together.

5. What language do you wish could speak?

I would love to learn Swahili.

6. What’s your favourite midnight snack?

I am fast asleep at midnight. No snacks!  

7. Who do you think must see this show before it ends its run?

Everyone.

8. If your character had a catchphrase, what would it be?

Let’s move!

9. What’s the most memorable moment you’ve had at the Young Vic?

The Convert press night.

10. Which country would you like to visit and why?

I would like to visit Cuba.

11. If you could be an animal for one day, which animal would you be?

A unicorn. They seem to straddle the world of fantasy and reality for me.

The Convert is now playing at the Young Vic until January 26. Tickets are now sold out but returns may be available on the day of each performance. Speak to our Box Office for more information on 020 7922 2922.

Danai Gurira & Kwame Kwei-Armah In Conversation | The Convert

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Kwame Kwei-Armah and Danai Gurira at The Convert Opening Night. Photo by Dan Wooller

During rehearsals, Young Vic Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah, and The Convert writer, Danai Gurira, took a moment to discuss the play’s inception in Danai’s Zimbabwean roots, her writing process, and why courage is fundamental to her art.

 

K: I want to express how joyous it is to have The Convert within my first season! Talk to me about the idea and process behind the play.

 

D: It was a culmination of so many things growing up. I was born in the US but raised in Zimbabwe from the age of five until shortly after the end of high school. I was there shortly after the country gained independence, and was raised around so many things; a country grappling with the idea of independence, which was in many ways one the most prosperous of the African nations. I was in a schooling system that was very much modelled after the way the country had been colonialised; this manifested in how we were educated, who we were educated by, the structures of the system, the ways of doing business, our social lives, the way we ate… tea breaks! I took a step back and started to ask myself who I was, because I have so many influences -what I aspire too, and how I excel – which are all defined by those who colonised us. These feelings culminated in me, and I found that I wanted to express them on stage.A lot of my training when I returned to the US exposed me to Shaw, Chekov and Ibsen – all the European greats. There was something about Shaw that was very gripping, and something about Pygmalion that correlated with Zimbabwe. Yes, there are a lot of troubles, but it still has the highest literacy rate on the continent, which I witnessed as both my parents are educators. I grew up watching these children coming from mission schools in rural areas to the city who were mad-smart. They were so smart. Yet they’d be awe of seeing the city, whilst also being the most educated people in the room. It was an interesting juxtaposition for me and I was thinking about how you try and bring your people forward through more access, more success. The thinking was that you expose people to Western culture and Western education. I found a parallel with this and Pygmalion; ironing out the crude pieces of this young lady, which is kind of what we do with our own families and people.  I started to explore this this idea in 2009 and 2010. It was an interesting exercise for me as I was delving into the history of my own people and who I could have been if I had been born 120 years ago.  

 

Full Company in The Convert. Photography by Marc BrennerK: What I am interested in knowing about is your transition, how the running of the two trains of acting and writing came about?

D: There is something about trying to distinguish acting and writing that, I think, can be a very Western concept.  When I was being trained, and when I first started to connect with the arts, I was in Zimbabwe, aged between 12 and 13. We were taught the ethics of theatre, of coming into a space, and treating it with great respect. We would create work and then perform. The way I first came to the arts, it was a path to story-telling.

 

K: Hearing you talk now, you can understand that your writing comes from a place that is not just cerebral, but is also connected to the soul and the spirit. With this connection to the writing, what is it that you look for and what wisdom do you impart for the director and the wider team?

 

D: When I first spoke to Ola we talked about the immersion of history and culture. I studied history A-level and did not come across the story of my own nation. I knew all about Napoleon and World War One, as I should, but I didn’t know anything about my own nation. To an extent that feels like it’s by design. People can be disempowered if they are not taught about themselves and not encouraged to gain any understanding of their own roots. This play was designed to go to the heart of this. If you immerse yourself into a world that is foreign for you, you’ve got to let it inform you, overwhelm you, to take over your thoughts. You need to see it through the lens of those colonised within the 1890’s; it is a mayhem of a moment at this time in Africa. There has to be such a visceral understanding of that world, in terms of Shona culture, Shona people, and Shona history. I want people to walk in and feel like they are in a sacred space, a world they have never known before it. I got swept away writing it. When I found the end of the play, I found myself just being a vessel, because I couldn’t argue with that ending.

 

K: When some talk about the play, colonisation comes up a lot. But my access point for it is the spirituality. What swept me away was your ability to speak to the spirit, to faith and your ability to use that as a vehicle of both oppression, of actualisation, and of fulfilling your spiritual potential.

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D: Yes, that’s a part of it. At times we can be super simplistic in the way we talk about faith and Christianity and it’s not simple! For example, my mother’s mother was a very powerful woman, the daughter of a powerful chief.  She made a decision to go and learn with Methodist missionaries. She met her husband, my grandfather, a Methodist pastor and she stepped away from one way of life to go into something more Westernised. She still gave speeches in deeply nuanced Shona, she sang her Methodist hymns in Shona and read her bible in Shona. In a sense she garnered an independence from her choice to learn about a Christian God. It’s a very complicated relationship that occurs between Africans and Christianity that can be, and is often, oversimplified.

 

K: What do you ask of this play in that regard?

 

D: I believe there can be a distinction for those who practise the Christian faith but are very much an Africanist at the same time, a distinction between the imposition of colonisation and the true essence of Christianity. That is Jekesai’s actualisation: how does an African connect with this faith while also seeing the hypocrisy in how it was used.

 

K: Now that you are in the public eye, can you be as brave to write something and not care of what others think of it, like you did when you wrote The Convert?

 

D: The day I can’t be brave is the day I am not an artist anymore. That space must be protected. To me the denial of your true self is to actually try to curb the spirit coming through you. You are no longer a vessel for your spirit, and that would be a tragic thing for me!

The Convert is now playing at the Young Vic until January 26. Tickets are now sold out but returns may be available on the day of each performance. Speak to our Box Office for more information on 020 7922 2922.

11 Questions with The Convert’s Ivanno Jeremiah

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Ivanno Jeremiah in The Convert. Photo by Marc Brenner.

Ivanno Jeremiah plays Chancellor in The Convert which is currently running at the Young Vic until 26 Jan. We’ve posed him 11 Questions to find out more about him and his character: 

1. What are you usually doing 10 minutes before the show begins?  

Something physical for example a workout or yoga. Then I would hide in a dark, quiet spot for a bit.

2. What was it that first got you interested in theatre?

Storytelling.

3. Can you describe your character in The Convert in three words?

Struggle, Lover and a man of faith.

4. What play or film have you seen recently that has had a lasting emotional effect on you and why?

I love what Charlie Brooker is doing with Black Mirror. The film Bird Box horrified me.

5. What language do you wish could speak? Or Do you speak any languages?

I speak fluent Acholi and currently working on my Shona. 

6. What’s your favourite midnight snack?

I like to eat anything and everything.

7. Who do you think must see this show before it ends its run?

The Obamas!

8. If your character had a catchphrase, what would it be?

Chancellor’s catch phrase would be “Savages” and “Comes, comes”.

9. What’s the most memorable moment from working at the Young Vic?

The family unit – working with all the cast and creatives as a team. 

10. Which country would you like to visit and why?

I would love to go to Zimbabwe to visit the ruins at Great Zimbabwe.

11. If you could be an animal for one day, which animal would you be?

A bird of pray because of the freedom.

The Convert is now playing at the Young Vic until January 26. Tickets are now sold out but returns may be available on the day of each performance. Speak to our Box Office for more information on 020 7922 2922. 

11 Questions with The Convert’s Rudolphe Mdlongwa

Rudolphe Mdlongwa in The Convert. Photo by Marc Brenner.

Rudolphe Mdlongwa plays the character of Tamba in The Convert which is currently running at the Young Vic until 26 Jan.

We’ve posed him 11 Questions to find out more about him and his character

1. What are you usually doing 10 minutes before the show begins?  

I listen to music, stretch or play about to get me into a playful mood.

2. What was it that first got you interested in theatre?

Singing in the Rain, The Godfather which led to other influences. The need to live other parts of my life.

3. Can you describe your character in The Convert in three words?

He’s a Lover, Fighter and Guerilla freedom fighter.

4. What can the audience expect from this production that’s different to anything they may have seen before?

Don’t expect anything, just come in with an open mind.

5. What language do you wish could speak? Or Do you speak any languages?

Arabic.

6. What’s your favourite midnight snack?

Muesli.

7. Who do you think must see this show before it ends its run?

Anyone who still call Zimbabwe Rhodesia, and The Queen.

8. What play or film have you seen recently that has had a lasting emotional effect on you and why?

The Jungle.

9. What’s the most memorable moment from working at the Young Vic?

Standing on that stage.

10. Which country would you like to visit and why?

Zimbabwe – to learn more about my history and my people.

11. If you could be an animal for one day, which animal would you be?

A bird – flying would be amazing.

The Convert is now playing at the Young Vic until January 26. Tickets are now sold out but returns may be available on the day of each performance. Speak to our Box Office for more information on 020 7922 2922.

First Look: The Convert Production Photos

Take a look at the production photos for Danai Gurira’s The Convert, directed by Ola Ince. Now running at the Young Vic until 26 January 2019. 

It’s 1896 in what is modern day Zimbabwe and Jekesai, a young woman fleeing forced marriage, finds herself working for devout Catholic priest, Chilford. Chilford relishes the opportunity to mould his new convert, but Jekesai’s salvation has a price.

Cast includes Jude Akuwudike, Paapa Essiedu, Ivanno Jeremiah, Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo, Rudolphe Mdlongwa, Pamela Nomvete and Letitia Wright.

Set and Costume Designer Naomi Dawson and Lighting Designer Bruno Poet.

Book tickets from £10 : https://www.youngvic.org/whats-on/the-convert

Rudolphe Mdlongwa and Pamela Nomvete in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Ivanno Jeremiah in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Ivanno Jeremiah in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Letitia Wright in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Letitia Wright in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo and Letitia Wright in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Paapa Essiedu and Letitia Wright in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Full Company in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Ivanno Jeremiah in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Jude Akuwudike in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Letitia Wright in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Paapa Essiedu and Letitia Wright in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner

The Convert runs at the Young Vic until 26 January. Limited tickets from £10. Find out more and book tickets now on our website.

Photography by Marc Brenner

The Convert | Rehearsal Photos

Take a look inside the rehearsal room for Danai Gurira’s The Convert, directed by Ola Ince which previews at the Young Vic from 7 December. 

It’s 1896 in what is modern day Zimbabwe and Jekesai, a young woman fleeing forced marriage finds herself working for devout Catholic priest, Chilford. He relishes the opportunity to mould his new convert but Jekesai’s salvation has a price.

Cast includes Jude Akuwudike, Paapa Essiedu, Ivanno Jeremiah, Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo, Rudolphe Mdlongwa, Pamela Nomvete and Letitia Wright.

Letitia Wright in rehearsal for The Convert
Letitia Wright in rehearsal for The Convert

The Convert runs at the Young Vic from 7 Dec – 26 Jan 2019.
Limited tickets from £10.

Director Ola Ince
Designer Naomi Dawson
Lighting Designer Bruno Poet
Sound Designer & Composer Max Perryment
Movement Director Coral Messam
Projection Designer Will Duke
Casting Director Charlotte Sutton CDG

With Jude Akuwudike, Paapa Essiedu, Ivanno Jeremiah, Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo, Rudolphe Mdlongwa, Pamela Nomvete, Letitia Wright

Photos by Marc Brenner