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Brief Encounter With ... Mogadishu's Rosie Wyatt

Rosie Wyatt plays Becky in Vivienne Franzmann's Mogadishu, which, following its world premiere and sell-out runs at the Lyric Hammersmith and Manchester Royal Exchange last year, has returned to the Lyric for one week only as part of a UK tour.

Can you explain what Mogadishu is about?
In the very first scene we see a school pupil assaulting a teacher and the play basically follows the spiralling effect of that one incident. The boy actually lies and makes accusations that the teacher assaulted him, and from then on there is a mushroom cloud effect of events between the boy and his gang of friends and the teacher and her home life. That’s where my character fits in because, although I play one of the school kids, my mother is the teacher. My scenes are generally about what’s going on, and how school affects our home life and our environment.

Tell us more about your character
She’s called Becky, she’s 15, and her mum’s a teacher. She’s really intelligent. As far as the play is concerned, she’s a bit of an outsider. The rest of the kids belong to this big gang that support one another and back each other up. You never quite see Becky’s friendship group or support group, and I think there’s a suggestion that she’s a bit of an outsider, but she’s brave and she is desperate to help her mother in the situation. Even though she’s actually powerless because she’s only a school kid, she does her best to stand up for her mum and clear her name.

How does it feel to be back at the Lyric Hammersmith?
I’m really excited. I wasn’t in the original cast so I haven’t done it there before, but half the cast has and they’re all really excited to come back. Those of us that haven’t done the Lyric are so excited because it’s a wonderful theatre. I’ve been an audience member there a couple times and just the whole space and environment of the Lyric is really wonderful. We rehearsed at the Lyric, so it’s really nice that that’s where the tour is ending. It feels like a complete circle. We’ve been told it’s been selling really well and most of us are based in London so all of our friends can finally come and see us. It’s like a homecoming.

The cast of Mogadishu (photo: Jonathan Keenan)
How did you get involved?
I met the director, Matthew (Dunster), when I was in New York doing a show. He had a show which was part of a festival called Brits off Broadway, and I was recommended for the part. We met in New York and when I got back he called me in for an audition and it just went from there.

Did you meet Vivienne Franzmann?
Yes, we met Viv. This is the second outing for this production, so I think she was probably around much more last time when they were rehearsing, but we did see her. Between this year's and last year's productions there have been a few tweaks to the script. That’s generally what happens in new writing. Viv and Matthew worked really closely together on developing a script from winning the Bruntwood Prize to it being produced. I think the fact she was a teacher for 12 years is apparent, some of the conversations in the play, you can hear them in a school. It’s fresh and so true to how teenagers communicate with one another that you know that’s been observed directly. It’s fantastic; all the characters are well sculptured within the text. It’s her first play and I think she’s done an excellent job.

Why should people come see Mogadishu?
It’s funny, moving and really interesting. It talks about the school system and how sometimes the systems that are put in place don’t always work, meaning they let people down. It feels like every audience who have seen the play have opened some sort of debate; there’s always a lot of discussion afterwards.

Why did you want to become an actress?
Some of the cast members have been acting since they were much younger, like 15 years ago. It wasn’t until I started sixth form that I discovered theatre. I went to see some work at Stratford Upon Avon and we got really cheap tickets at the RSC because we were students. It was at the time of the Shakespeare’s complete works festival, which was a really exciting time to be in the town, and I saw so much. Apart from musicals, I hadn’t seen any real theatre before. As I was watching these amazing plays before my eyes I fell in love with the world of theatre. What it can do to you as a member of the audience, as you’re watching the performance by the actors live on stage. I started thinking, 'I’d like to do what they're doing'.

Where did you study?
I studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, and graduated in July 2010. I had a fantastic time while I was there. As we weren’t based in London, they made a real effort to help us get contacts within the industry. A lot of the work I’ve done since graduating, I can trace back to contacts that I made while at drama school.

What other things have you done since graduating?
When I first graduated, I did a play called Bunny. It was a one-woman play by Jack Thorne, which I performed at a festival; I won a Fringe First and it went really well. It had a much longer life than when we toured it. I performed at the Soho Theatre for three weeks and then took it to New York, which is when I met Matthew. That was just amazing, I’d never been to NY before and for my first trip to be with a play was absolutely amazing. That was a real dream come true. I also toured a play called Love, Love, Love with Paines Plough, which is by Mike Bartlett and directed by James Grieve. I was in the original cast of that and we toured in 2010/2011 and I had a really great time. This is my third tour now, so I’m beginning to learn the life of booking gigs and living out of a suitcase; I feel like I’m quite experienced in that now.

Any dream roles?
There are a lot of things I would love to do. Since graduating, all the plays that I’ve done have been new writing, which I’ve loved - and I would like to keep connected to that aspect of theatre. But I would also love to do some classical parts, maybe some Shakespeare. I’d say it’s more about the type of people I want to work in and places I’d like to work. Performing at the Lyric theatre is a huge tick off my list. It’s one of those venues that you feel proud to perform at.

Mogadishu continues at the Lyric until 31 March 2012

- Rosie Wyatt was speaking to Amy Sheppard


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