Acclaimed British-Jamaican writer Debbie Tucker Green’s latest play, Random, describes one day that changes a family’s life forever.
Green’s writing is contemporary and text based and described as short, poetic and socially urgent. This play is no different and has already enjoyed rave reviews all over the world. It is a challenging piece for any actor as it is a one woman show and that actor is required to play a multitude of roles ranging from a young women in her mid 20’s to a man in his 40’s, a teenage boy and everything in between – all with south London and Caribbean accents.
That actor is Jamaican-born, Melbourne-based actor Zahra Newman who at the tender age of 24, and not long out of drama school, has one very impressive resume. She has appeared for MTC in Rockabye, The Drowsy Chaperone and Richard III. Other theatre credits include Fear and Misery in The Third Reich, The Feigned Inconstancy, Crossfire, Speaking in Tongues, The Seagull and Taming of the Shrew , The Crucible and, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Her Jamaican ancestry has also proved a huge advantage to tackle Green’s script because like the writer Newman speaks Creole. “I guess I don’t know many other Jamaican actors walking around Australia,” Newman says. “I haven’t met any Jamaican actors at all and I’ve been here for 10 years. Whereas half of London is Jamaican!”
Newman connected with Green’s script from the first reading. “She’s written the play using Creole and I’d never really read a contemporary Western play with those influences in it so for me it was great. I thought: ‘Wow, people can watch this and they don’t have to be Caribbean or Jamaican; they can still appreciate it and understand it.’ … Also, the way she’s written it is very interesting. It’s almost like a beat poem. There’s quite a good rhythm to it.”
Newman has worked with theatre giants like Geoffrey Rush and Robyn Nevin but is under no illusions about the fickle nature of what she does for a living and not to take success for granted. She acknowledges that an acting career is an uphill battle and certainly not for the feint- hearted.
The challenge of Random’s requirements are certainly not lost on Newman but she tackles them with a determined philosophy: “It’s not supposed to be easy. If it’s hard, if it’s difficult or a challenge and you’re scared of it, then thank God you’re scared by something, thank God you’re not bored. It’s very easy to let fear determine your pathway, but go with it. Admit, yes I’m scared, now let’s keep going.”
Random’s Australian director Leticia Caceres saw the play in London and knew immediately that she wanted Newman for the role: "On a bare stage with minimal sound and lighting cues, Random requires a performer who can embody all the characters, master their various south London and Caribbean accents, place those accents within the rhythms and rhymes of the verse, and cast their spell over an audience through a tough fifty-minute story. If you want to see an actor’s toolbox with everything laid out, come see Zahra Newman."
Both Newman and Caceres share a passion for the stage that TV and film can’t quite match: "There is something incredible about the magic of the actor holding your attention, living a story in front of your eyes." says Caceres. "An actor feeds off the audience and knows how to make you hold your breath, make you laugh, reduce you to tears, scare you, surprise you, and it all happens LIVE! Film can’t do this. It relies on gimmicks. Theatre is actors and audiences and a story. Nothing more."
While certainly not an old pro yet Newman’s advice to young actors is gold: “I’d say be prepared to be hit really hard. There’s a lot of disappointment that goes with this career choice but you do have to mentally prepare and know what you want to do and have forward momentum because it’s only the very few lucky people who actually have people saying, ‘I want you for this’. It doesn’t really happen so you have to have a sense of turning the wheel yourself. Also you have to be willing to not just be an actor who is given a script but to be involved in every aspect of making theatre and the development of new works.”
Random plays at The MTC Theatre, Lawler Studio from3 May to 13 May 2011 Tickets Youth $25; Adult $35 Booking Details 03 8688 0800 or mtc.com.au