Written by Alexandra Wood Directed by George Perrin
The Initiate runs till the 18th of July 2015 »Book Tickets
Arriving at the Southbank Centre to see THE INITIATE as part of the Festival of Love the whole area was absolutely overrun with people clambering around to get their hands on some of the many food stands (where we partook in a delicious burrito) and to see all the shows that were going on. Maria and I passed at least 4 studios at the Southbank Centre as we were trying to find our show and everyone kept saying, "around the corner to the Round About." Very clever name we thought, now we were hoping it would be in the round especially because we ourselves are learning the different stagecraft techniques in different theater layouts. Sure enough, after going around the corner enough times we found it. At first glance it looked like a circus tent set up especially for a special event, not like any of the other spaces which were all in the Center. We walked up the steps and handed our tickets to the usher at the door. As he tore them he made a joke at how "expensive" our tickets were after seeing the £0.00 price on them. We were lucky enough to have gotten these tickets absolutely free after the Festival gave them to Drama Studio for any of their students to write a review for the school's blog, so glad we were the ones that got to do it. When we walked in we were quick to realize that this was no circus tent. It did honor its name by being in the round, beautifully lit and surrounded by lovely cushioned seats. The stage was set with 5 voms including one where the actors exited and entered the other being access to the seats, where during the show the actors sat if they were not speaking.
This 1 hour three-hander takes place in the round, the atmosphere is tight and insular.
Straight away we are pulled into a conversation between cab driver and boss. The jovial cab driver, originally from Somalia, is being fired because he finds it difficult to take the direct route to destinations but rather prefers giving his customers a scenic journey past Buckingham Palace or the London Eye. His naive reaction towards customers; "Don't worry you'll enjoy the ride." makes especially female customers feel very uncomfortable. We understand this is a man who operates in an unconventional way.
The first scene was perhaps over-played which could be accounted to nerves but as the show goes on, the actors relax and so do we as a result.
Now jobless, our protagonist returns home to his family where his wife informs him that their son Kbswa didn't go to school that day. The son, beautifully acted by Abdul Salis, admits grudgingly that his classmates compared him to a Somalian pirate who recently kidnapped a British couple from their holiday boat. When his son asks his father go and talk to the pirates because he is also Somalian, our protagonist is faced with his hero's journey. He accepts his son's request and goes to the Somalian community center to ask for the ransom money, £5 million. The head of the community centre eventually tells him it can't be done and questions his motives. "Why not any of the other people who have been kidnapped and attacked by these people? Why the Clarks? Why now?"
The play's initial London safeness and tepidness rolls into an intense and gripping arrival in Somalia. In his original home country, his Somalian family questions his decision and reasoning for this endeavour. But the stand-out scene is between by protagonist Sidney Cole and the viciously cheeky pirate boss played by Abdul Salis, which draws us in to the heart of the argument of THE INITIATE: who are we in the world in relation to our roots and is it possible to change how we are perceived by strangers apart from our skin colour, heritage and nation's backstory?
When our protagonist is finally allowed to see the hostages, the Clarks are shocked at the announcement of their release; especially when the one helping them is not the British Government but 'another Somalian'. Mrs Clark, played by Sian Reese-Williams, gives an emotionally rich and moving performance of disbelief and fear saying she'd rather die than be separated from her husband again, fearful that our cab-driver-turned-Saviour is just another liar and part of the pirate gang. Our protagonist tries to convince them that he is there to help them but once again, we are starkly confronted by the argument of the play - The fact that he is Somalian in this context taints him and does not make him neutral.
Overall, THE INITIATE was a political thriller tackled with engaging characters and written with clever witty dialogues. Perhaps the blocking and movement could have been minimised as that would have made the moments of movement more powerful.
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Have you seen that comedy sketch, 'Fiery Hawk'? If you haven't please YouTube it and come back to me. Funny, right? But surely not what it's really like - well mostly not, but sometimes...
I have been very fortunate in the few years since graduating from Drama Studio London and have acted in 7 commercials. As they tend to pay quite well I am often asked, "what's the secret"? "How do I get cast in a commercial"? I have to be honest and say I don't really know. Sorry. What I can tell you is some things I have noticed about the auditions where I've been successful and what I've learned from them. It boils down to two main pieces of advice:
1. Make a choice (and stand by it)
At drama school you hear almost every day - 'Make a choice' but sometimes it's very easy to forget to. No more so than in a hurried commercial casting. You're one of 100 people, you get 30 seconds with the script when arriving, you get 2 minutes in the room and then that's it. It's very easy for it all to fly by. The first 5 commercial castings I had were a whirlwind and then one day I had an audition running an hour behind schedule. That hour was dull but it meant that I had nothing to do but read the script a hundred times and practice and refine what I was going to do. By the time I got into the room I had a very clear idea of what I was doing and just delivered it. There were three mini-scenes to act, I did two of them once and the third twice and that was it: I got the job, no recall or anything. Since then I am a militant choice maker and will always have a (subtle) practice in the waiting room so I'm all rehearsed. It really makes such a difference - if you make the wrong choice they'll let you know. I was told about a commercial once that I had got the job because I was the only person to do something different with the role in the audition, to have made a different choice. Now I'm not saying that's because I'm a genius, far from, but I think that's because everyone else was rushed into the room as a blank canvas, were all given identical initial direction and thus created 99 similar performances. I went in with a plan and gave my interpretation a go before getting redirected. Always deliver your interpretation! I recently almost didn't because when in the room I thought I was way off the mark but luckily right at the end they said "do what you want this time" so I gave my plan a go and they loved it (I got the job).
This is so much easier said than done and I have no tips for how to achieve it but I have noticed that if I'm tired, late for work, think I'm way out of my league, don't know if I want to get this job as I'll have to take most of my clothes off etc I tend to get the job and all I can think is that it's because I'm relaxed. I guess if you're desperate to do well you push too hard and it doesn't feel authentic and if nothing else commercials have to create something authentic as you get 30 seconds to tell a story, grab an audience and then convince them to spend money. The proviso to being relaxed though is that you need to have done the 'Making a choice' work first otherwise you'll just be an auditioning pot of jelly.
I hope my two top tips are helpful and that you're convincing me to buy stuff in no time!