With a vibrant energy and an assertive demeanour, it’s not a hard stretch to see why Jade Anouka has been classified by anyone worth listening to as a one to watch (or a “Star of Tomorrow” according to the Evening Standard, which is practically a Nike cameo as far as anything pre-last Friday is concerned).
Born in Bexley, the actress and poet today resides in Camberwell; she recently launched a GoFundMe page to give kids in her local area a chance to see Black Panther on the big screen – under the banner #BlackPantherPeckham the fundraiser has already smashed its target by 500%.
On stage she’s won plaudits for roles in The Tempest, Julius Caeser and Henry IV – as part of an all-female cast who put on the trilogy at the Donmar Warehouse in 2016 – while elsewhere fans on the web have gravitated towards a short of her poem, I Am A Woman, read out by a host of the country’s finest acting talent, amongst them Judi Dench and Sharon Rooney.
Next up, is television. With a role in ITV’s new three-part drama Trauma, we grabbed five with Anouka to talk arts.
How did your acting journey begin?
I always talk about the first time, when I was in Year 6, you know when you do your Year 6 play at the end of primary school? And you had to write down whether you wanted to do an acting part or a singing part… I got swayed by peer pressure, my friends would say “I want a speaking part, but not that big” and I was like “yeah, me too, me too, write that down” but then they all got speaking parts and I was in the chorus. And I was so vexed. I knew everyone’s line and I was just so desperate to be up there; from then on I was just like “I want to be up front” so I started doing it from then as a hobby, inschool plays – I never thought you could do it as a job.
But then you did go to drama school, right?
Yeah, my drama teacher at sixth form collage, she got me a scholarship, for me and another girl to go and to NYT (National Youth Theatre). So when I went there, I met a lot of people of my age, and I was like “this what I want to do”.
You were later in an all-female Shakespeare production, and then a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet too. How did you enjoy theatre?
I love live theatre. I played Juliet, I was so lucky – the first time I played Juliet was at Bolton Octagon and it was just an amazing role to be in, and luckily I got on with my Romeo; outside of the show we had a kind of brother-sister relationship, but it was only a three week run, it was really short. And I wasn’t ready to finish with her – then I got the opportunity to play Juliet at The Globe, and then we toured the UAE, so we went to Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and that was just amazing. It was set in Italy but it was really modern, like I started on a BMX bike, riding it around the stage. Yeah man, Juliet just busting in on the BMX, and then the upturn car was like the bed… It was cool.
That’s amazing. And with regards to your crossover from theatre to TV, how did that come about?
Well I had done quite a bit of theatre, and I wanted to do TV and mix it up as much as possible. I had done little bits of episodes, like Law and Order and Doctor Who, and then last year I just took the decision, it was after I did the Shakespeare trilogy, which was the most amazing three roles, in the most amazing company… I was like “what do you do after that”, theatre wise? So I was like “let me just take a little hiatus from theatre and keep myself available to audition for TV”. And then I was so lucky that I got Trauma, which is my first regular TV show [and begins tonight on ITV]. It’s gonna be sick.
How do the two compare? Live theatre, from the outside at least, it can often seem more collaborative, and there’s also the chance for audience interaction…
Well, for me, I’ve done so much more theatre than TV, so I feel it would be unfair to compare. But it is different I think because, what I really noticed, is that you’re kind of right in there, like you can see the crew, everyone is working and doing their bit to make it happen, and you really see the clocks turn, and notice everyone’s specialties, everyone’s skills working to create one common thing. As an actor [in TV], you can really see how you are just one small part of it. And with theatre, it’s different because everyone is still doing all that, but you don’t really see it. The focus is different, and I guess the focus is sort of, what we as an audience see – the actor.