Afrocentric Theatre, Music, Culture and Business

Sophia Brown on [Blank] the play about women in the justice system Sophia Brown on [Blank] the play about women in the justice system
Sophia Brown on [Blank] the play about women in the justice system

EOL: Why did you want a part in ‘Blank’? What drew you to the play?
SB: I’d been wanting to do theatre for a very long time and I’d read Alice Birch’s ‘Little Life’ in 2015, so I was already a fan. Alongside that combination I’d heard so much about Clean Break and the work they do, so it was an easy in. Once I’d read the play it was a no brainer.


EOL: [Blank] is about women in the criminal justice system, can you expand a little on this?
SB: It’s about what life is like when adults feel absent from it. It deals with the ripple effects that the system has on the people, families and communities connected to those who have been incarcerated. It shines a light on mental health within the system and the lack of support there is for it.


EOL: Why is it important for the unheard voices of these women to be heard?
SB: “Having a voice is crucial. It’s not all there is to human rights, but it’s central to them, and so you can consider the history of women’s rights and lack of rights as a history of silence and breaking silence. Speech, words, voices sometimes change things in themselves when they bring about recognition and inclusion. The rehumanisation that undoes dehumanisation. Sometimes these are the only preconditions to changing rules, laws and regimes.” (Solnit, 2019)


EOL: Having got an insight, what changes would you make to women’s treatment in the justice system?
SB:  lot more mother and baby Units within prisons. There are currently 6 units, with 8 spaces per unit in the country. Leaving 80% of mothers, who have babies whilst incarcerated, forced to separate from their newborns. 17,000 children are separated from their mothers each year.


Better aftercare when residents in prison are released. Suicide among recently released female prisoners is 40 times higher than the general population. Charities like PACT, work to minimise the harm that can be caused by imprisonment to people who have committed offences, to families and to communities. (www.prisonadvice.org.uk)


EOL: How did you get you acting break?
SB: I went to drama school, got an agent from my 3rd year showcase and managed to book the first audition I went to. It was mix of perfect timing and a lot of hard work. After working in musical theatre for 3 years, I fell out of love with it. The industry was quite limiting. I felt naturally drawn to playing with character and text – at the time, TV and Film allowed me to do that. I auditioned to play a character inspired by Olive Morris (a community activist from south London in the 70s) in Sky Atlantics ‘Guerrilla’. I’d say that was a big turning point for me creatively and professionally.


EOL: You said previously that ‘I want to break down stereotypes and smooth out the grey areas’ in acting, what did you mean by that?
SB: I started acting professionally at a time where opportunities for black actors were on the rise but still very limited. At the time auditioning for musicals was like living in a shoe box. Your only options were to be stuck in the 60s, 70s or play an animal.


I hated it. I moved into TV and Film wanting to play real life characters not just stereotypes that the industry seem to uphold. I wanted to play my sister (a black lesbian struggling to come to terms with her sexuality) my cousins, my friends from school. I wanted to show the types of love, laughter, friendship, hardship they experience. The black experience is not explored enough in TV, Film and especially theatre. Smoothing out the grey areas meant breathing more colour into those blank spaces, literally. Showing different types of black lives.


EOL: You’ve done a mix of film, TV and theatre. Which are you most drawn to?
SB: Theatre was my first love. There’s absolutely nothing like it. Doing TV and Film has allowed me to explore acting in ways I hadn’t imagined. I love the process. I feel constantly kept on my toes. I would say I’m drawn to projects rather than between the two.


EOL: Finally what can we expect from Sophia in 2020?
SB: Alongside acting, I am a performance artist, so next year I’ll be creating a lot more of my own work both for stage and screen.


[Blank], Till 30 Nov, Donmar Warehouse, WC2H 9LX Details https://www.donmarwarehouse.com/

No comments so far.

Be first to leave comment below.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!