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Brief Encounter with ... RSC's Jude Owusu

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Jude Owusu is currently appearing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new production of Julius Caesar as Cinna the Poet, the short-lived character who becomes the innocent victim of a bloodthirsty mob. Directed by Gregory Doran, artistic director in-waiting at the RSC, this Pan African production of Shakespeare’s play features an all-black cast.

Julius Caesar
opened at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on 28 May and will tour nationally until 27 October, as well as being broadcast on BBC Four as part of the BBC’s Shakespeare season.

Owusu also stars in I, Cinna (the Poet), an exploration of the events in Julius Ceasar through the eyes of the unfortunate poet. Written and directed by Tim Crouch, the live performance will be streamed directly in up to 3,000 schools across the country on 2 July.

What made you want to be an actor?
I remember coming to England from Ghana when I was seven and not being able to communicate verbally with other children, which led to me being involved in a lot of confrontations and a deep feeling of being an outsider.  It’s this drive to communicate thoughts and emotions that drives my passion for acting.

How did you get started?
All it took was one excellent drama teacher (in my secondary school) to tell me that I was good at something.  It meant so much to me that I had found something I liked doing and on top of that somebody in school (which I hated) telling me that they liked my ideas.  

You're playing the same character in two plays. Is that strange?
It’s not strange.  It’s been really helpful.  Although the two plays are different, they both allow me to explore myself in very challenging ways.  

Tell us about Tim Crouch's piece
Tim Crouch’s piece, I, Cinna (The Poet) gets to the heart of the issues discussed in Julius Caesar. It asks the audience to participate through poetry the question of what do we consider to be a thing worth killing and dying for. Freedom and democracy – are they a privilege for the few?  

It's being live-streamed to schools. Is that a scary thought?
It’s happening on 2 July, and I will be involved in an online post-show discussion immediately after the showing with Tim Crouch and the children’s author, Malorie Blackman.  I’m really looking forward to this, because so often when you do a play, one doesn’t get the opportunity to hear immediately what the audience feel.  

What can you tell us about this new staging of Julius Ceasar?
It’s set in Eastern Africa, and really highlights the lives between art and history.  Post-colonial Africa has been littered with despotic rulers. The world created is fantastic with its mixture of mysticism and humour.

What advice would you give to actors wishing to follow in your footsteps?
Everyone’s journey is different. I have been blessed with amazing emotional support from family and friends. My advice is to get to know who you are as a person and then prepare to fail. It’s through trying and failing that I believe you get better.

Finally, if you could emulate anyone's career, whose would it be and why?
Joe Mydell (playing Casca in our production of Julius Caesar) is confidence personified on stage without any hint of arrogance.


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