It’s all about valuing the drive to be who you want to be

Oseloka Obi, who plays ambitious stage electrics student Joseph in We Raise Our Hands In The Sanctuary, reveals how he connects to what, for him, is the biggest theme of the play – becoming the person you yourself want to be.

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Oseloka Obi (Joseph), photographed by Leon Csernohlavek

What is your relationship to the themes of the play?

The theme that most resonates between me and the play, is that fundamentally, it’s about being who you want to be and I think that’s something that I’ve always valued and been aware of so the idea of these characters, these people in this world doing what they want to do and not feeling oppressed for being who they want to be, is something that I relate to as an actor and as a person.

As a heterosexual man, how have you found playing a man in a homosexual relationship?

I think, when I first got the role, I was slightly ignorant as to how to play a homosexual man. At the crux of it all is that there is no way to play a homosexual man. There’s nothing I can do to make myself obviously gay, I can’t just camp it up. I had ignorance before, I did an LGBQT play in Edinburgh and I had that same problem: how am I going to make myself appear gay?

But the reality of it is that, that’s not possible as the homosexual community comes in all different variations. There’s no overarching feature that could make myself appear as homosexual. I found it liberating, because I thought I would be barricaded from behaving in certain ways because of Joseph’s sexuality, but in reality I found it really liberating and very interesting to explore a character that is homosexual but not in a way that conforms to a stereotype.

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Oseloka in performance with Dean Graham as Paul, photographed by Leon Csernohlavek

How has the rehearsal process been for you: how does it compare to other productions you have done?

It’s been fun first and foremost:  I’ve done things where the environment of the rehearsal room has been very rigid. I think that art, including theatre, is a very fluid thing so I don’t like it when things become really, really systematic and I think the rehearsal process has been fun. Arguably, at times, we haven’t done stuff we said we were going to do, but the fact that we haven’t had things be rigid is a very good thing because I feel that the systematic way of doing things is a barrier to creativity. I think a necessity of creativity is not putting a barrier on the artist. Although we have only had three weeks, it hasn’t been pressurised nor the rigid kind of rehearsal that would have stopped us reaching the potentials that we have.

Do you feel you have had input over the development and evolution of Joseph as a character?

Yes, although every actor is ultimately at the beck and call of the directors and writers, I think every actor has ownership of their character, because of the intricacies and the themes that make Joseph as he is. I can have input in blocking and the exterior but the interior, as in what Joseph is, even if this may not translate to the audience, I know him better than anyone else knows him, and it that way, I have ownership of him.

© Vicky Olusanya

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