NOUVEAU RICHE, SOHO THEATRE & HOME, MANCHESTER PRESENT
BY RYAN CALAIS CAMERON
A life fighting for his country in a society fighting against him
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Wednesday 31 July – Sunday 25 August (not 13), 16:30 (60mins) Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance Beneath. 14+ Press night: Saturday 3 August Captioned performance: Thursday 22 August
From Nouveau Riche, the makers of 2018 hit Queens of Sheba, comes this powerful new play by Ryan Calais Cameron, directed by Anastasia Osei-Kuffour, confronting the daily tensions experienced by Black men as they negotiate life, while constantly feeling like their own lives are on the line.
Typical uncovers the man and the humanity behind the tragic real-life story of Christopher Alder, a Black British, ex-serviceman. Challenging traditional conceptions of Black manhood, Typical is a one-person show that highlights the crisis of identity consuming Britain today and challenges how far race relations in the UK have changed in the twenty years since Christopher’s story emerged.
How do you feel about bringing your work to Edinburgh for the Fringe: you had success last year, but do you find it a rewarding experience?
Edinburgh Fringe is the biggest fringe festival on the planet. If you can make there you can make it anywhere haha. Last year we (My company Nouveau Riche) brought up our show Queens of Sheba despite a number of people warning us that they didn’t think The Edfest audiences (being predominately White) would get/appreciate our work. I had a strong believe that art is art and if it works it works and it worked. Win lose or draw, what better place to try new work out that the epicentre of the fringe universe?
The inspiration for the script seems to come from a real life story: what was it about this particular story that encouraged you to write a play about it?
It is the story of a Black man that is just a man when he is in the comfort of his home, but as he leaves he must navigate through society’s ideas and prejudices about what it means to be Black. What also intrigued me about this story is the questions it brings up about belonging and identity. Our protagonist is a Black man that fought in the Falklands war, a man that has sacrificed himself for his nation, yet is that enough to class you a British? Can you be Black and truly be British? I wanted to explore the reality of something that has felt like a huge contradiction throughout my life. Especially now in a post Brexit referendum Britain.
Do you feel that theatre is a good place for exploring the kind of ideas that Typical examines? Can it operate as a way to change people’s minds or examine a specific idea and maybe move society in a different direction?
Wholeheartedly, I feel like the forum of Theatre/ live performance is a great platform to really try testing and pushing people on the way they think and feel, and the way they look at the world and one another. Everything that we do at Nouveau Riche marries education with entertainment. What better way to start a discourse about a subject matter than to be left alone in a space, no distractions, no phones or I-pads, no pausing, rewinding or fast forwarding, just you and the performer sharing this experience. In this day and age there is no other form of interaction like it.
In terms of the expected structure of a play, the audience response and the structures around performance, is Typical an atypical piece of theatre?
I think so and I think the same can be said about the way we make theatre in general. Our work tends to depart from traditional western storytelling; experimenting with fresh contemporary methods, including cultural influences from the African diaspora. This will hope to result in a practice that focuses on creating and engaging an emotional response from the audience. This play will be taking exciting risks incorporating a multitude of art forms from contemporary dance, Hip-hop, and Jazz, to Monologues, spoken word, poetry, song, and physical theatre. From the moment the light comes up on our performer the show aims to be a complete tour de force
What are the qualities of theatre that have made you keep faith in it, and do you have a particular philosophy that you feel is expressed through the works that you have made?
For me it is the sense of community in theatre that I keep coming back to, the fact that for an appointed time we are all watching this experience together, laughing together talking together cheering crying in shock and in awe, and then we all leave together and evoke conversations with those we came with and those who we have just met. You may have all came from completely different walks of life from all corners of the world but we’re all right here right now experiencing this together, and if you came tomorrow night it would be a completely different experience. You only get this in the theatre and I love it!
In 2018 Ryan produced the critically acclaimed, sell-out Edinburgh hit Queens of Sheba, which went on to win the Edinburgh Untapped Award and later transferred to the New Diorama Theatre. Ryan is the winner of the Off West End Adopt A Playwright Award (2018) with his play Rhapsody (Arcola Theatre) and is an alumnus of the Royal Court writer’s programme (2017) and the Soho Young Company (2016).
Ryan’s first play Timbuktu was part of the Bush Theatre’s Black Lives Black Words Festival 2016, a festival of radical new BAME voices. It was revived for a sell-out run at Stratford Theatre Royal East. He has been commissioned for Arcola Theatre and Royal Court and has also developed a new play based around Hollywood legend Sidney Poitier.
Ryan is also a professional actor and credits include: Mogadishu (Manchester Royal Exchange/Lyric Hammersmith), The West Bridge (The Royal Court), The Dug Out (The Tobacco Factory) and Sponge (Old Vic New Voices). TV/Film credits include: Luther (BBC), Jekyll and Hyde (ITV), The Coroner (BBC), Suspects (Channel 5), Casualty (BBC), Honey Trap (Bright Pictures) and The Interceptor (BBC) and Cilla (ITV).