Rachel chats to Jadesola Odunjo who is starring in School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play which opens on the 8th of June at Lyric Hammersmith.
Hi Jadesola! Congratulations on your stage debut! How are you feeling ahead of School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play?
Hi! And thank you so much! I am feeling excited and blessed to have this is as my stage debut. It’s such a special story and I think what is so incredible about it is that I, myself as Jadesola can see myself in many of the girls and I’m hopeful that many people will be able to as well.
Could you tell us a bit about the play?
Well, the play follows a group of young girls at Aburi Boarding School in Ghana, where Queen Bee, Paulina runs things. And her status as Queen Bee is threatened upon the arrival of newcomer Ericka in conjunction with the looming prospects of The Miss Ghana 1986 pageant. And we see how that affects the relationships between the girls and how they see themselves. We really see how identity, societal constructions of beauty and perceptions of self, affect the girls and the people around them.
What or who inspired you to get into acting?
I fell in love with acting at quite a young age I would say. I remember doing a reception production of a compilation of musical theatre and I did “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window” and I remember the reaction my grandma had to seeing me on stage and just that feeling of being on stage, and even if I wasn’t perceptive of how important that moment was for me at the time, I think retrospectively I understand now, that was the moment where it began and I kind of just kept doing it from then really. I felt this constant draw to performing whether that was dance or acting, I just knew I wanted to be on stage and I did after school clubs and then as I got older and went to secondary school, it became apparent to me that it was something I wanted to follow and pursue if possible, and when I went to university and went to part-time drama school, and it continued from there and now, here I am!
How are the rehearsals going?
We actually just finished rehearsals and we’re going in to tech so that’s really exciting! I’ve enjoyed the process so much, but it’s gone so fast. But I think one of the most enjoyable aspects of the rehearsal process is being able to explore who your character is as an entire person because they can be so different from what you think at first glance on the page versus when you embody them in reality, especially in seeing how each of us (cast) have created people and how we interact with one another. And with it being such collaborative process, I’m eager to see how the vision comes into fruition.
You’re playing the role of Nana. Could you tell us a bit about the character?
Well, Nana is this sweet, kind, and sensitive person who wants to be seen, wants to be visible, and wants to be heard. I would say she has introverted tendencies but there is so much to her that she seems to be hidden and throughout the play, I think we see her battle with the idea of wanting to fight against what is expected of her, which is really beautiful, and she truly becomes someone you root for. She epitomises growth, for sure!
As a Black British-Ghanaian, I have to say, I am thrilled to see this performance on stage – representation in theatre is so important! What are you enjoying the most about being a part of this production?
There’s something so extraordinary about being in a room of incredibly talented black women, who are constantly inspiring you and I think, for me seeing that when usually you’re the minority, and when you are used to being the outsider or ‘Other’ is something you can’t quite explain.
It’s incredibly important that you see yourself in spaces in which you aspire to be in, and this is a perfect example of that. And I’ve just enjoyed creating bonds with the cost and with our director Monique and every creative involved, especially because there’s so many things that the girls go through that we can relate to in one way or the other, and to be able to feel seen in the spaces that we are navigating is very special.
Describe the show in 3 words
Relatable, Funny and Heart-wrenching.
Finally, why should people buy a ticket to see School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play?
People should buy tickets because they will be completely transported to the 80s and there’s such a great sense of nostalgia but also with the relationship with the girls, a great sense of relatability where they journey through finding themselves as young women. Not only that, but it’s hilarious and incredibly truthful to the realities of what it’s like being young and navigating a world which attempts to dictate who you are, and I think many people will feel deeply and relate to them as well because of that.
It finds the balance between the lightness of comedy and realities of being young masterfully and I think it’s a show people will see themselves in, no matter their background or age or where they come from, there is going to be someone or someway you see yourself and that is amazing.
ABOUT THE SHOW
School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play is on at Lyric Hammersmith from the 8th June – 15th July, tickets start at £10 – find out more here!