Afrocentric Theatre, Music, Culture and Business

Ashley Zhangazha (Ike Turner) Interviewed Ashley Zhangazha (Ike Turner) Interviewed
Ashley Zhangazha (Ike Turner) Interviewed

EOL: What inspired you to cast for the role of Ike?

AZ: I thought it would be a really exciting challenge to play a real life figure. Ike is such a notorious character in musical history and I was keen to explore the complexity of him. I just thought to myself – ‘what a great acting opportunity it would be to delve into psyche of such a man’. Getting to sing the songs was also a tantalising prospect and I’d heard such brilliant things about the show.


EOL: how do you feel playing the part of Ike, a known abuser. How do you prepare mentally for such a role?

AZ: The tumultuous nature of the relationship between Tina and Ike is well documented. My job as an actor is not to judge Ike but to present an honest, human portrayal of him. Warts and all. Then it’s up to the audience each night to take what they take from the story. Mentally I think it’s about understanding both the positive and negative traits of the man. The charm, the charisma and the musical genius as well as the darker aspects.


EOL: How do you want the audience to see your character?

AZ: It’s interesting. Usually as an actor your impulse and desire is for the audience to like you, or to be on your side. You often want their approval or their sympathy. Often the characters I have played elicit these responses. With Ike, it’s a completely different thing. I leave it to the audience to make their minds up. All I want is for them to be engaged in the story and for my portrayal to make them feel something.


EOL: There are a lots of amazing costume changes and songs. What are a couple of your favourites?

AZ: The glory of Tina’s music and the Ike and Tina back catalogue is that the tunes are so good that from week to week my favourite songs change. Higher and Proud Mary (which Nkeki sings so brilliantly) are always highlights.

Ike has a really strong costume and wig game. There’s a look which consists of a huge Afro, a bushy moustache and a red jumpsuit. You can’t beat that for boldness.


EOL: You won the 2018 UK Theatre award for Best Performance in a Musical, tell us a bit about your musical journey?

AZ: It was a wonderful and humbling thing to receive recognition like that. The production that I won it for – ‘Guys and Dolls’ – was a Talawa/Royal Exchange co production directed by Michael Buffong and it was a really special experience. We reimagined the piece both musically and character wise in the context of a black community in Harlem. Most of the work in my career has been straight acting – plays and television but that was something of a departure and I was really pleased with what we created.


EOL: Sum up the show in a couple of sentences?

AZ: An electric, roller coaster of an evening. The story of a formidable woman who turned poison into medicine. Great songs, a great story and an amazingly talented and hardworking cast.


TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL is currently booking to 11 January 2020 at the Aldwych Theatre, London. www.tinathemusical.com

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