Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Racheal Ofori: Portrait

By | Published on Wednesday 11 November 2015


This summer in Edinburgh, one of our reviewers was very impressed by the work – and potential – of Racheal Ofori, whose solo show ‘Portrait’ was staged as part of the Festival Fringe. Since then, the show has been on tour, and next week will finish with three performances as part of the Radar 2015 at the Bush Theatre.
Having heard such good things, I was keen to find out more about the actress and her work, so I put some questions to Racheal, ahead of the upcoming dates.

CM: Tell us about ‘Portrait’. What happens in the show?
RO: The show is about Candice, a stereotypical south London black girl, but wait: not like you’ve seen one before. Candice is very witty and funny and her articulation of topical matters is probably what makes her great. Her character carries the main narrative, during which she is having sessions with her mentor to help ‘realise her potential’.

Whatever the subject of conversation is, we are then introduced to another stereotype that embodies just that. For instance, there’s a moment when Candice is talking about racial inequalities, and we soon find ourselves in church faced by an African American preacher, ready to hear her ideas on how to create racial equality! Later on, we meet some confident dancing women, and an Oxford hopeful, all of which are played by me. It’s a fun show!

CM: Would you say the show has an agenda, political or personal? Do you think it’s possible to effect change via media like the theatre?
RO: I never set out for it to be political, but to be a platform for expressing my own experiences, and conveying how people have made assumptions on me based on stereotypes, or were surprised when I didn’t speak a certain way.

I definitely think theatre can be used as a media for change. Sometimes I understand it can be quite intimidating, because the idea of going to the theatre can seem so exclusive, but I hope to help shift that a bit. I’ve had people come and watch the show who have never been to the theatre and I think that’s important.

CM: What gave you the idea for this.
RO: I was inspired my my own experiences and just the ways I felt torn in as to how to behave as a black woman. But it wasn’t one prominent idea. It started from one monologue of Candice and a poem I’d written a while ago and slowly built from there.

CM: How did you go about creating the show? Did you sit down and write, or was it more a question of devising the piece?
RO: I’d written poems in the past and I used them as stimulus. Then if I got an idea for a character, I’d write it up and build them in. I worked with pieces really, and eventually pieced together a show! With hindsight I can say that’s how the show came to life; however, if I were to go about doing this again, I have no idea how I would do it!

CM: As a solo performer, how does your relationship with your director work?
RO: It was a good relationship, because Kate Hewitt really got it. She jumped on board just before Edinburgh and we had a simple, mutual focus: what would be best for the show? So if something didn’t work, I could trust her to help me realise that. Equally, it meant I could try new things with characters, and have another’s perspective on it. It was good to have an outside eye, to understand why something did or didn’t look good.

CM: We first came across the show in Edinburgh, and I’ve noted a number of performances at various London venues in the autumn. How long to do you plan to keep going with it…? Is it something you will keep returning to, do you think?
RO: As long as I can! Ha! No, I’m not sure. The tour finishes at The Bush on 18 Nov, so pretty soon. So we’ll see if there is any immediate afterlife. I don’t know if I’ll keep coming back to it… depends if there is a demand! It would be cool to come back to it though!

CM: Can you see yourself putting together more shows like this one? Do you enjoy working on your own as much as with an ensemble? What do you have planned for the immediate future? Any new projects?
RO: It’s quite difficult. I am keeping my eyes and ears open waiting for inspiration to strike!

I’m hoping to do another solo show, I think that will be fun. I’d also like to see whether I could come up with another!

I did enjoy working on my own as it meant I could just focus, but it can get lonely sometimes. I am also an actor and you can never predict when it comes to auditions… so I guess watch this space is the answer!

‘Portrait’ is on as part of Radar 2015 at Bush Theatre from 16-18 Nov, see this page here for links to more info and to book.