Could you tell us more about your work so far?
SHAUN: I have been lucky enough in my career to have worked across both theatre and TV. The first piece of theatre I was involved was when I joined Talawa Theatre Company, aged 17, for their 4 week Summer typt programme. It was a amazing experience working alongside actors such as Michaela Cole and Shanika Warren-Markland. A year later I appeared in Channel4 TV series Hollyoaks as a series regular, a surreal experience at the time. After Hollyoaks I found myself doing more TV work such as: Doctors, Holby City, Casualty, and BBC comedy Marley's Ghosts. As well as doing more work for Talawa; Artistic Director, Michael Buffon, gave me the opportunity to join the cast for Moon On A Rainbow Shawl, another great experience.
VERONICA: I have been in the industry for nearly 10 years & I've been a part of the generation that have actually seen a shift in the way the black people are represented on stage/ film and with such a sensitivity to the truth of our experience. I’ve had the privilege of playing Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King & Fanny Lou Hamer in “The Life & Death of Martin Luther King”, playing a lead in “ENTER” produced by Talawa Theatre company, playing a nurse BBC’s oldest radio drama, “ARCHERS”, a 60 year old in “Colour of home” aswell as a semi lead which was a multi role in Soho Theatre’s four week production of “EXPENSIVE SHIT!”, I also had the privilege of taking on the Andy Amadi’s (creator of online series BKCHAT) challenge of a multi role monologue in the “NAKED SERIES: YOUR HUSBAND, MY BOYFRIEND”. My roles have varied so much!
Can you tell us a bit about Rhapsody (see my review here) in your own words?
SHAUN: Rhapsody will definitely live long in my memory. It’s an emotionally compelling journey between two young adults discovering their love for one another. My character Youth is a vibrant funny charismatic bubbly type of guy (little bit like myself, ha) and he's a sensitive soul deep down. His girlfriend Asia struggles with her mental health and finds it difficult to love, trust and be with somebody. My character genuinely cares for Asia deeply and continually proclaims his love for her throughout the play but I question whether he's actually in love with her. It's a very challenging piece not just because it's a two hander, but the emotional journeys both characters embark on are a rollercoaster ride. Personally, I love the challenge. It brings the best out of you every night.
VERONICA: Rhapsody is about two young lovers and their peaks and troughs with mental health and their belief systems around "doing life" and being successful at it. In many ways I could relate to Asia’s character. Wearing the mask of the “strong black woman”, to the pressures of social media and showing your peers that you can do life; even realising through research of Asia’s character that I probably had an episode of depression myself at some point without realising it. I would say the only differences between me and Asia, are that I’m a lot more family orientated and a lot more open to support and talking about my mental health (yeah that was totally me when a guy approached me on the street!) As well as building the chemistry and learning a 75 page script in 2 weeks, the process mainly helped me to get my head around how Asia’s mental health decayed her relationship with Youth and how mental health can impact a black woman and showing that as authentically as possible.
What kind of theatre do you like?
SHAUN: When I go to the theatre I love to laugh and feel involved in the play as an audience member. Although I do love a deep story and the emotional journey I don't like to be challenged too much as an audience member, I'm quite lazy in that sense, I like to be spoon fed. I've seen a lot of theatre in the last year or so but the one the really stood out for me was a play called "With A Little Bit Of Luck" by Sabrina Mahfouz at the Roundhouse, Camden. It takes you back to 2001 when the UK Garage scene was at its peak and tells a story of a young girl growing up in that era. The sound track is AMAZING and the writing is equally brilliant! There's a female singer on stage singing sweet garage tunes as the story flows. It's an incredible production.
VERONICA: I love theatre with a minimal set and heightened characters. There is always almost no props on stage and so we are drawn to listen to what the story has to say! I feel like this kind of theatre has helped tell the rawness of the black experience & I am forever, all about the representation we don’t get to see about the lives black men and women. With Rhapsody, the writer/director Ryan Calais Cameron said that there wasn’t a piece out there that was romantic comedy between to young black people! The last play I went to go see was Nouveau Riché's TIMBUKTU which was about black men, their masculinity and how this is particularly channelled into gang culture and also their relationship to women. What was lovely about it was that not every character had the same view of gang culture and women. We seem to think that a whole group of people share the exact same views and therefore deem them as being “insensitive” or “no good” & it’s so funny!
What's next for you?
SHAUN: If only I could say! No seriously, I have an extremely good feeling about this year, all I can do is take every single opportunity like it's my last, pray and go with the flow. Hopefully I'll be on stage again very soon telling amazing stories such as Rhapsody.
VERONICA: An actor’s work is never done, so I will pressing into more acting classes for the screen, refining my craft for this vast area of the industry! I will also be going to Edinburgh Festival, performing "QUEENS OF SHEBA" also another play produced by Nouveau Riché which won the Underbelly Untapped Award earlier this year! I cannot wait to go and win some awards and see what it’s all about! I invite anyone and everyone to come and see the show!