‘I want to make communities that might not venture to the West End feel heard’: Annice Boparai on being cast in Yasmin Joseph’s J’Ouvert

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Written by Yasmin Joseph, J’Ouvert makes its West End debut at the Harold Pinter Theatre, where it is running until 3 July 2021. I caught up with actor Annice Boparai to find out more.

Can you tell me about J’Ouvert?
J’Ouvert
is a play with no limits. It’s a visceral experience filled with female friendships, joy, culture and hard truths. We see the characters individually grow and go on a journey in a place that so many of us are familiar with – Notting Hill Carnival. It also takes us back to the origins of Carnival and how something that is so important to the community has turned into something so much more. Sometimes not for the better. It looks at both racial politics and gender politics and how our bodies are often objectified in these spaces without permission.

What was it about the production that made you want to get involved?
Yasmin’s writing is what initially drew me to the project when I first auditioned back in 2019 at Theatre 503. I had never read anything like it before. She skilfully creates the world of the play and its characters through poetic language thats deeply embedded in truth, whilst weaving in subject matters that so many shy away from that are still as relevant today as they were back then. It’s so important that writing like this is finally being produced and we get to hear these voices on stage. Now, two years later it’s incredible to know these voices are going to be on a West End stage.

What can audiences expect?
J’Ouvert is bold, stylised and structured entirely around three women of colour. It’s full of Soca music, colourful outfits, feathers, friendships, witty humour and explores race and gender politics in such a detailed and original way.

How would you describe your character?
Nisha! She’s one of a kind. I have to say she is one of my favourite stage characters I have played. The contrast of her background and energy to Jade and Nadine is huge. Despite this, Nisha is determined to join in with the fun whilst being very vocal about campaigning for West London Rising – a collective of young people from across the borough trying to decolonise local polices and dismantle bureaucratic systems that affect the safety of the local people. Her heart is very much in the right place but unfortunately, she lacks cultural awareness and her eagerness to please can often have the opposite effect. Though initially she appears confident in herself, throughout the play we see Nisha battle with her identity just as much as the other two characters as she tries to figure out where she belongs in this complex society.

How excited are you to get back on stage in front of a live audience?
All I have been feeling is immense gratitude. It’s been a hard year for so many performers and our industry as a whole. To be given the opportunity to do what I love best and in such a beautiful theatre is a gift. I’m so excited to bring Nisha back to bigger audiences and share this story with so many people.

What would you like J’Ouvert to achieve?
To show people that this is the new era of theatre. That these voices are just as relevant as the ones we are so used to seeing on big stages. I want to make communities that might not venture to the West End feel heard, welcomed and celebrated. Culture is such a beautiful thing and this play really does honour that.

J’ouvert runs until 3 July.

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Kirsty Herrington on RssKirsty Herrington on Twitter
Kirsty Herrington
Kirsty Herrington is a blogger who fell in love with theatre at a young age and spent the majority of her student loan on tickets to West End Shows while she was at university. She began reviewing regularly for fellow MyTheatreMates’ sites Love London Love Culture, Jonathan Baz Review, London Theatre Reviews and Mind the Blog before setting up her own site From Page to Stage in 2018. With a background in journalism and a keen enthusiasm for both plays and musicals, Kirsty often reviews productions in London and East Anglia. She tweets via @kherrington83.
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Kirsty Herrington on RssKirsty Herrington on Twitter
Kirsty Herrington
Kirsty Herrington is a blogger who fell in love with theatre at a young age and spent the majority of her student loan on tickets to West End Shows while she was at university. She began reviewing regularly for fellow MyTheatreMates’ sites Love London Love Culture, Jonathan Baz Review, London Theatre Reviews and Mind the Blog before setting up her own site From Page to Stage in 2018. With a background in journalism and a keen enthusiasm for both plays and musicals, Kirsty often reviews productions in London and East Anglia. She tweets via @kherrington83.

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