Before pursuing a career in acting, Phina Oruche graced many a fashion campaign, most notably for Gap and worked alongside the modelling holy trinity; Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington. Oruche’s career however wouldn’t stop there as she’d later pursue a career in television, taking on various roles including the self assured Liberty Baker in the ground breaking Footballer’s Wives. Oruche is now taking on another role; that of writer in her debut show Identity Crisis. Read on to find out more about the show.
You’ve created a piece inspired by how others have perceived your black identity. Can you explain more about your show and why you were inspired to create it?
Historically things are recorded by the person with the most power. Therefore, I noticed that when I was being shot and styled on shoots, people who were the same or similar ethnicity to me were not present usually. This means that the “black images or characters were sometimes not always ‘ constructed from a skewed vantage point.
I created Identity Crisis to recover from one of the toughest periods of my life; for me the play is about dealing with loss. The loss of my niece, the loss of my mind through grieving my niece, the loss of my position through objecting about the segregated radio stations that I was working on. I was stalked, and the man later jailed, I have been robbed by a white middle class confidence trickster who specialises in intellectual fraud. My marriage was failing, so I was done.
I HAD an identity Crisis because all the external labels that society places on you, mother, wife, actress, friend, radio presenter, collapsed.
How did you approach creating the show?
I wrote from my heart in one sitting, then Bill Hopkinson read the script and helped me with the structure. I then stood it on its feet and found the characters’ voices. Then I took it from region to region which was generously funded by the Arts Council and I am so grateful to have put it in front of people who are not necessarily theatre goers, because they tend to spot anything that doesn’t ring true. People were very generous with their feedback forms so I took that and amalgamated it all into further drafts and revisions.
The piece will see you take on nine different characters. How have you prepared for this? Are there any characters you find easier to portray than others?
The voices I hear most often are the easiest to create so Antonio Di Silva is Italian like my husband and Mama Nukku is Nigerian like my mother. The others were pulled from what I have witnessed and experienced. An artist bears witness. You subconsciously take notes of all manner of things and pull them out creatively at play!
What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?
That your identity does not come from your position in life; that we need to heed the creator and figure out what he wants from our life; and that no matter what you have been through He can get you through it if you trust him.
What have responses been to the show so far? Have they been what you have expected?
I have been blown away by people’s generosity of spirit regarding this project. Regardless of age, life stage, colour or creed or gender, they all have wonderful things to say to me, which reinforces my thoughts that the actor supplies the DNA and the writer writes for humans and not in a pigeon holed type of way.
What advice would you give to aspiring theatre makers?
Train. Train. Train. Read everything and then become a master of your craft. Take every opportunity to hone it. Do not do anything you are not material wise comfortable with. If you are not getting what you want create it!
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
Identity Crisis was shown from Tuesday 9th until Saturday 13th May at the Ovalhouse Theatre. To read the Identity Crisis review, visit here…
To find out more about Phina, visit here…