Afrocentric Theatre, Music, Culture and Business

Phina Oruche – Identity Crisis Interview Phina Oruche – Identity Crisis Interview
Phina Oruche – Identity Crisis Interview

Following highly successful runs at the Edinburgh Fringe 2016, International Slavery Museum Liverpool, Identity Crisis by Phina Oruche (of ITV’s Footballers’ Wives, Channel 4’s Hollyoaks and Celebrity Get Me Out of Here fame come to Ovalhoue, London. This hilariously funny one-woman sketch show explores identity struggles that are common to us all.


Ebony Online – caught up with the delectable lady ahead of her five day stint at this very famous theatre to explore race, identity and confidence tricksters.


EOL: What is the play about and what racial, international and personal incidents happened that triggered your inspiration for the play?
PO: For me the play is about dealing with loss. The loss of my niece, the loss of my mind through grieving for my niece, the loss of my position through objecting about the segregated radio stations that I was working on. The international incidents were the ongoing deaths of my American brothers in custody, starting with an 11-year-old called Tamir Rice, and as a mother, could have been my son, and then Sandra Bland who could have been my sister or one of my friends, so for the first time in life all I had to cope failed me.


EOL: Tell us about some of the nine characters the play uses to explore the ideas of ‘Identity Crisis’?
PO: We have Sir Bobby Blue, director of a large 62 media establishment; Rasta, a street emperor in his 30’s; Mama Nukku – a flamboyant 70-year-old religious woman who has had to fight for everyone, especially her daughter. Then there’s Amy Tan, a working class white girl aged 18 who is image-obsessed, has the Liverpool look,
scouse brows, spray tan with massive lashes and Mary the middleclass white widow, who’s relied on her husband her whole life and now has to cope alone. Another is Antonio de Silva, a greasy haired gorgeous 29 Italian immigrant.


I had a ball playing these people, I am very adept at characterisation, and so I was able to put those specific traits that I love to great and funny use. I think you get more from people when you’re telling them a story and can make them laugh in the process. I also think that being a Scouser and having that madcap sensibility was part and parcel also.


EOL:Why do you feel or see Identity as a crisis?
PO: I don’t see identity as crisis, far from it, I HAD an identity crisis because all the external labels that society places on you such as mother, wife, `actress, friend, radio presenter etc all collapsed.


EOL: Tell us some of the hilarious and not so hilarious experiences you had in the fashion world that you highlight in your play?
PO: I have been stalked, I have been robbed by a white middle class confidence trickster called Sean Smith, who specialises in intellectual fraud.


EOL: What do you want the audience to leave with or experience after watching the production?
PO: That we are more than the summary of our DNA, we are more than the culture we have adopted or adapted to, that we are the sum of our collective parts and that there is more that unites us than the things people use to separate us, and finally that for me, I got my identity fixed in God, my creator, because when as else failed it was all I had.


EOL: Why did the unfortunate experiences of your niece’s death cause you to reflect on your own life?
PO: It made me want to mother like never before as I suddenly realised this little bundle was my only hope and so I grasped my son so tightly, made everything revolve around him as you just don’t know the day or the hour, how long you have got. It made me an incredible mother, instead of passing him to others to be reared whilst I pursued my career. I quit, and I grabbed hold of all the chances to teach him to ride a bike, bake a cake, watched his football game; I really paid attention to him and I doubt I would have done that otherwise, if it wasn’t for seeing the preciousness of life.


EOL: Do you believe there is still an issue of race and casting, as you’ve said previously the play allowed you the freedom to play characters you were never cast for?
PO: There is an issue of race in everything, however I don’t dwell on it. If I want to play a certain type of part I will pick up my pen and create it.


EOL: What have been some of your experiences of race and discrimination from the world of fashion, theatre and entertainment, as our readers are very interested in these issues?
PO: Too many to recount, and serves me no purpose to do so, I am interested in the solution of me being able to express myself to the best of my ability before God and man.


EOL: What advice would you then give to a young aspiring actor, actress or model hoping to make their way in these professions.
PO: Write, don’t compromise. Ask questions and train, train, train. Make sure your craft is tight.


EOL: Finally what next Phina after this production?
PO: Taking the play to NYC and spending a year there with my son.


Photo credit: Paul Jones

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