Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Jade Anouka: Heart

By | Published on Friday 19 January 2024

If you were at the Edinburgh Festival last summer, you may well have come across ‘Heart’, the debut play from Jade Anouka, featuring music by singer-songwriter and beatboxing champion Grace Savage.

It’s a show that won much love and acclaim, and it’s no wonder, in the hands of such a talented and connected duo. And now it’s getting a London run at Brixton House.

Jade is, of course, a very much established performer both on stage and on screen, so you’re no doubt familiar with her work. I spoke to her to find out more about this show, and about the actor and writer herself.

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about what to expect from ‘Heart’ in terms of content? Whose story does it tell?
JA: It’s a personal story but I believe a universal one too. We follow the story of a woman grappling with the end of her marriage and the beginning of a new chapter in her life. All while facing up to her beast.

CM: What themes are explored through the play?
JA: It’s about love, loss and self-discovery, and all that can come with that: relationships – sexual, emotional, familial and the one you have with yourself.

CM: What was the inspiration for the show?
JA: My life inspired it. It’s an autobiographical piece.

CM: Can you tell us about the music elements of the show? What style or genre is it?
JA: It’s intertwined. The show is all written in verse and the musicality of the poetry is partnered with Grace’s music.

We touch on a few genres, there’s funk, hip hop, alt pop, acapella, beatboxing obviously. There’s also more atmospheric stuff. Grace was really able to make whatever music I needed to help tell the story at any point – or cut against it.

CM: What made the two of you decide to collaborate? What is it like working together on this?
JA: It’s been great. We’ve known each other for nearly ten years – I first saw Grace perform a headline gig at the Roundhouse and my mind exploded with the sounds she was able to make with just her mouth alone.

People can sometimes think of beatboxing as a gimmick, a bit of a joke act, but wow the difference between seeing an average beatboxer and someone like Grace Savage is huge.

We’ve worked together a few times before, she performed music for my poetry set at Roundhouse’s Last Word Festival a few years back and then we collaborated again on my BBC short film ‘Her & Her’ during lockdown.

Having Grace come on board to do the music for ‘Heart’ just makes sense.

CM: I know you performed the show at the Edinburgh Fringe in the summer – how did that go?
JA: That was just incredible. That first night particularly was one I’ll never forget. Before that performance we’d been rehearsing in a room in Budapest where I was filming a TV show, then in a friend’s parents’ flat.

We had about 90 minutes in the space to figure out sound, staging, lights, tech etc – it was mad. We had an 11pm start, last week of the Festival, and the first time in front of a full audience.

After that night we were like, OK, we need to do this show again.

CM: Can we talk about what drew you to working in the arts? Did you always want to do this sort of thing?
JA: I always loved expressing myself – my maternal grandmother was an English teacher, and she wrote songs and illustrated them. She encouraged me and my cousins to express ourselves in this way.

I would perform her songs, it was a hobby though, the idea of working in the arts came later. I didn’t realise that was an option until I went to the National Youth Theatre.

CM: What have been your highlights thus far?
JA: In my career? So many, I’ve been very lucky.

My first job at Greenwich Theatre when I was a teenager was the start of everything. The Donmar trilogy, ‘Moon On A Rainbow Shawl’ at the National, ‘Cleaning Up’ –  the ITV show that was my first big TV role – ‘Queen Margaret’ at the Royal Exchange – what a part!

And performing this, my debut play, at Edinburgh – that was wild!

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
JA: To publish and get more of my plays produced and performed. Play leading roles in theatre and interesting roles on screen. Basically, keep the work coming and varied.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
JA: I’ve recently finished filming ‘Dune’ prequel series ‘Dune: Prophecy’, which is due to come out this autumn on HBO.

‘Heart’ is on at Brixton House from 23 Jan-3 Feb. Find out more and book your tickets here.

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Photo: Jaime Prada