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Brief Encounter With ... Alexia Khadime

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Alexia Khadime is currently appearing in Moira Buffini's new play Welcome to Thebes at the NT Olivier, directed by Richard Eyre.

In 2008, Khadime became the first black actress to play the green-skinned ‘wicked’ witch of the west Elphaba in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria. Prior to this, her first West End appearance was in the ensemble of The Lion King in 2001, aged 17.

She returned to The Lion King in May 2005 to star as Nala, which she continued to play for three years. Her other theatre credits include Whistle Down the Wind and Leader of the Pack on tour and Cinderella The Musical at the Hackney Empire.

Tell us about Welcome to Thebes
It's a new play grounded in Greek mythology, centring on characters like Tiresias, Theseus and Eurydice. There's been a war in Thebes, and there's next to nothing left. Eurydice has been put in power and they call from help from wealthy Athens - Theseus is brought in to try and help them come out of this depression, though he turns out to be a bit of an egomaniac. It's got very strong contemporary resonances, and contains modern inventions like mobile phones and the internet.

Who do you play?
I play a girl called Harmonia - she's poor, she's a beggar, and she's practically a slave to the character Tiresias. He's a blind prophet who can see into the future, and Harmonia acts as his eyes and his voice. I do a lot of very operatic singing - the music is very beautiful.

Quite a change from Wicked
I think it's always nice to change things around. I've done musicals for a while, and I'm someone who likes to experiment and do different things. I have done opera before, but never in a professional context. Plus, because it's a much smaller role than in Wicked, it's given me a chance to step back and watch the piece develop. That's part of the joy of working on new material, watching the puzzle being put together.

What was your route into the industry?
When I was younger I always loved to sing and dance, and my mum put me in to classes after school. But it was only later when I was 15 and I started training in opera that I started going up for auditions. I got an agent, and that's when my career really started. So it evolved naturally, without any real formal training, but I certainly didn't set out to do it initially – I was doing psychology for A'Level and thought I might persue that.

What's your take on TV casting?
I don't think I could do the television casting thing, it's so different from the usual process. So I take my hat off to the girls who can shine in that environment, but it would maybe be a bit too much for me. I think there's a definite benefit in terms of widening audiences – I just hope they come and see stuff like Welcome to Thebes as well as West End musicals.

What are you plans after Welcome to Thebes?
The big thing right now is that I'm hoping to have my album ready by the end of the year. I'm writing with some great people so I'm hoping that will be big. I'm also planning to do some television work and if some new stuff comes into the West End you may well see me back on stage quite soon. I hope so anyway!

Welcome to Thebes continues in rep until 18 August 2010 as part of the Travelex £10 season.


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