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5 minutes with: Ashley Zhangazha - 'Daniel Evans is one of the best directors around'

Following his Ian Charleson award for Macbeth at the Sheffield Crucible, Zhangazha returns to the northern stage in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun

Ashley Zhangazha

I started acting quite young. I went to a local youth theatre near me in North London and they had an agency attached to it. I was in a Sam Mendes production of Oliver! at the London Palladium in 1997 and then I did Whistle Down the Wind about 1999. I did some bits and bobs of television - The Bill and The Lenny Henry Show - so I was able to get that experience.

I kind of stopped acting as a teenager. I went to university and did a degree in Politics and Economics and did what teenagers do; I was interested in football and going out. I enjoyed my degree but I started to get quite restless and frustrated and I felt like acting was all I wanted to do so I joined the National Youth Theatre and then I went to Guildhall and trained there for 3 years. I wanted to give my everything and it was there where I realised I wanted to do this and I wanted to do it properly and I wanted to do it well.

A big year for me was 2013. I did Henry V with Michael Grandage as part of his first West End season with Jude Law and I did a play called Fences in the West End. Grandage has been a massive influence on my career. My first job out of drama school was with him at the National, we did a play called Danton's Death. I've worked with him four times but that first job was like 'wow, this is amazing'.

I won the Ian Charleson award in 2013 for Macbeth in Sheffield. It's an award for actors under 30 doing a classical role, which is defined as any play before 1918. The judges go and see productions all over the country, deliberate and give out commendations and three awards and I was lucky to win the first prize for that. It was amazing, I was pretty overwhelmed by it.

It's fantastic to work at the Sheffield Crucible again. Daniel [Evans] who runs the place is one of the best directors around and a fantastic artistic director, I saw Show Boat last night and it was a brilliantly put together production. I think what he's done in the five years here has really made it a place that actors want to come and work. The audiences are amazing and really receptive to the work that's put on, they really feel like this theatre is theirs and they want to champion the work that's onstage and support the actors so it's really great to be back here again.

I think A Raisin in the Sun is one of the best American plays of all time. It's up there with Eugene O'Neill and Arthur Miller. It's written by a woman called Lorraine Hansberry and she was the first African-American woman to have a play on Broadway in the 50s. It's a family drama set in Chicago in the 50s and it's concerned with what a family do with a large sum of insurance money left to them. It's a really brilliant show.

This part is pushing me to the limits but it's one of those parts which makes you a bit more picky about what you want to do. We're still early in rehearsals but I'm on the lookout for something that's as meaty as this so watch this space!

A Raisin in the Sun runs at Sheffield Crucible from 1 to 13 February before embarking on a six week tour.

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