Amy catches up with Aaron Anthony who is about to star as Eugene in Yellowman, running at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond from the 5th September to the 8th October.
Hi Aaron, how are you feeling ahead of the opening night of Yellowman?
Nervous and excited. Nervous because this play feels like an epic challenge for an actor, excited because I can’t wait to get it in front of an audience – especially because of the nature of the play. The characters are actively sharing memories with the audience so we don’t know what the show is until we have the audience there.
How are rehearsals going?
Rehearsals are going well. It’s strange being in a cast of two, it makes it very intense – we’re both there all the time but luckily we get along! It’s a play you could do any which way. It’s all imagination so it’s been interesting to explore. You see all the characters through Alma and Eugene’s eyes and it’s been fascinating building that world.
What attracted you to this production?
I read the play years ago and reading it again in prep for the audition I was reminded how affecting it is. It really gets under your skin and, like I say, the challenge of bringing that to life is appealing, but it’s important to me I know it’s going to be done well, and I knew Diane would be the person to do that. As soon as I met her in the first audition I felt comfortable and safe and I wanted to be a part of it.
For anyone that are not familiar with the show, can you give a brief synopsis?
Set in South Carolina in the late 60s, Alma and Eugene are two young black kids who live less than a mile apart but lead very differently lives due to the fact that Alma is dark skinned and Eugene is light skinned. They meet as children and we follow them over the next 20 years as they battle with the voices around them telling them who they should be. It asks the question, how can you find your own voice in a pressure cooker? One that has been created by white supremacy designed to keep people divided.
What are the key themes / messages?
See above! But Colourism, racism, generational trauma and, more broadly, what we pass down the generational line beyond blood. Also love – there is love, but it is constantly being challenged!
Why is this an important play to be staged? And why now?
Good question. Hard to answer because the reason I was affected by reading the play is because examples of these issues very much exist in my life. And that’s how I know the themes and issues are relevant – I know they are. For everyone. And the writing really gets under the skin of them, it’s uncomfortable at times because it’s close to home.
What can people expect from this production of Yellowman?
To go on a journey for sure, the play doesn’t pull any punches and we’ve leaned into that. I genuinely think it’s the kind of play people will want to see again because there is so much in there. It has Shakespearean and Greek tragedy influences. It’s a great story beautifully told.
You play Eugene, can you tell us a bit about the character?
Yes Eugene is a light skinned man growing up in St Stephen which is the area where all the light skinned people live. But Eugene’s father is dark. And this makes Eugene an outsider even within his own home. His own father bullies him for been light and other light skinned people look down on the family. So as a child he’s lost and meeting Alma changes that. In his nature he’s sweet, innocent (maybe naive) and open but we see throughout his life he is constantly being told what he should be and influenced by the fear and hatred that those around him carry.
With a huge amount of theatre on offer in London – why should people book a ticket to Yellowman?
It’s full bodied! I think when I’m going to see theatre I want to know I’ll be entertained but also that I’ll be moved and leave with questions, ideas and thoughts about what I’ve just seen. Yellowman does that.
Finally, can you sum up the show in 3 words?
Layered, lyrical, affecting
ABOUT THE SHOW
Yellowman at Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond
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