Alt A caught up with actress Keziah Joseph, who plays Celia in Max Webster’s adaptation of the infamous work of Shakespeare “As You Like It”, about her character, her career and the state of contemporary British theatre. Trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Keziah Joseph won the Carleton Hobbs Bursary Award in 2016, was a member of the BBC Radio Drama Company, and she was a Spotlight Prize nominee. Her life spanning career includes roles in Silver Lining (Rose Theatre, Kingston/tour); Wuthering Heights, Three Sisters, Twelfth Night, and radio projects such as Assata Shakur: The FBI’s Most Wanted Woman, and The Mother (BBC Radio 4).
- Tell us about your role in As You Like It?
Celia is a princess and the only child of the Duke who usurped his brother, Rosalind’s father. She’s incredibly witty, intelligent and practical, but also quite naive and grown up in the bubble of court life.
- What do you like and dislike about the character?
I love that Celia values friendship and she’s incredibly loyal to her cousin, Rosalind. I love her humour and the way she tries to turn negative situations around, and essentially sacrifices her security and title to help her cousin.
I dislike her fear of romantic love, or maybe her naivety about it. Perhaps like myself, she doesn’t allow herself to be as bold and extreme as Rosalind because she’s very practical, but I’d love it if she could let go from time to time.
- What are the steps you take when preparing the role?
First with Shakespeare, just try and understand the language! (laughs). And then after getting a sense of Celia’s journey, working out how she holds herself physically in relation to other characters and different environments.
- If you could do any Shakespeare play, which one would it be and what role?
Probably, based on what I’ve said I disliked about Celia, I’d love to play Juliet – a young woman not afraid to love deeply and recklessly. I also think a story like “Romeo and Juliet” never loses its relevance.
- What was your first acting professional job and why did you decide to take this path?
I played a 12-year-old suffering from mutism in a short film called “Hush”, by Candice Onyeama. I got the job whilst in my third year in drama school and loved it! The cast and crew were all lovely and supportive and I’d never done screen work before, but I knew I loved being on set (laughs)…even the waiting around. I love being a part of telling stories that have the potential to really affect people.
- Where do you call home?
West London, specifically Greenford, on the “red line” (laughs)
- Do you think that roles for women of colour have got better over the last 10 years?
From the shows I’ve seen and plays I’ve read since training, I’d say yes! I’ve certainly noticed a difference. I’m part of a collective called Blackstress UK which has massively changed my feelings and confidence about my place as a Black woman and a woman of colour in this industry. There are fantastic actresses who have gone before us to make things better! So, whilst there is still some ways to go, I have to acknowledge their efforts, and their sacrifices and say yes, it’s got better because of them getting the ball rolling.
- Name your role models?
My gran, my mum, Martina Laird (Forget Me Not, Julius Caesar), Cherrelle Skeete (Harry Potter and The Cursed Child), Debbie Tucker Green (Hang, Born Bad), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, Broadchurch) …I could go on…
- What advice would you give to anyone entering the profession, based on your own experience?
Be bold, be brave, be courageous. Believe in your voice and the unique quality that you bring to the profession, but also be compassionate and kind – people always remember how you make them feel more than what you say, so bring light to a job and not just talent. Have something else! I find it a luxury being able to be an actor as my profession, but it’s not my everything. Have a hobby, don’t be flaky with friends and family, and keep having other experiences – travel, go to restaurants you’ve never been to or do a Groupon activity (laughs). Image credit: Jane Hobson
Catch As You Like It at Regents Park Open Air Theatre book here runs until 28th July 2018