Conundrum is the debut production of Crying in the Wilderness as Associate Company at the Young Vic. The play follows Fidel, played by Anthony Ofoegbu (Barber Shop Chronicles), as he embarks upon a transformational journey to review his past and search for answers about his life.
We sat down with Anthony and Director Paul Anthony Morris to find out more about this heartfelt drama, coming to the Young Vic this May.
How would you describe Conundrum, in a few words?
AO: A man shares with us the exploration of his life in order to understand his particular state of depression.
PAM: A personal life review that is both immersive and transformative
Can you tell us about some of the key themes explored in the play?
AO: It is about Selective Social Mutism and the impact of how society views and accommodates social minorities, the joie de vivre despite social restriction.
PAM: Existential crisis – ‘who am I why am I here?’ Mental health and Selective Social Mutism. Windrush generation structural inequalities.
What do you hope audiences will take away from this show?
PAM: We hope audiences will see people with mental health issues in a brand-new positive light. We hope to inspire audiences by our theatrical style, Theatre of the Soul.
AO: Hope, clarity, healing and a better understanding of ourselves as human beings.
Can you tell us about the live music element of it?
AO: We have selected an eclectic array of musicians who we believe can enhance the spectacle with a myriad of dimensions that appropriately suits the subject matter.
PAM: Our composer for the play is Byron Wallen, one of the UK’s foremost jazz composers and trumpeters. The music will be performed live in the play by four multi-instrumentalists of great renown as soloists and band members. The music has been created not only to underscore the action but to drive the narrative forward and affect the mood and aspirations of the audience.
Who do you think should come and see Conundrum?
PAM: The play is multidisciplinary, we are expecting audiences who love theatre, music and dance. For the general public, the play will connect with individuals from all backgrounds and across generations. The audiences in our past performances have been very integrated which has prompted some very interesting perspectives and conversations concerning the show. We have also had visually impaired members of the community attend because of the high sensory value of our productions.
AO: I believe everyone should come and see this play, it involves everyone whether they know it or not.
What play have you seen recently that has had a lasting emotional effect on you and why?
AO: I’ve been on the road for the last 14 months getting emotional in the play I was working on so haven’t had chance to see anything else and I now have to prepare for this emotional rollercoaster that’s coming up, especially as the title suggests ‘conundrum’.
PAM: Macbeth by the Ninagawa Company from Japan at the Barbican Theatre. Unlike the traditional versions, we are used to in the UK, in the Japanese version the hero alters by 360 degrees, your moral compass and emotional investment into Macbeth the character. Plus, the play was set within the Samurai tradition with all its attendant rituals, protocols and mythologies.
What should audiences expect from this production?
AO: I hope they will have a profound experience.
PAM: Something new, profound and inspirational. If we tick these three boxes with our audience, the play will have definitely been a success.
What are you looking forward to the most about this play at Young Vic?
PAM: The audience’s response to our play and our theatrical style. Plus, the discussions triggered by the play.
AO: The fact that the YV is an accessible space for new writing and that's what we are. So the privilege, as well as the pressure to be here, is great
What advice would you give to upcoming performers creating their own work?
AO: Everybody has a story to tell and if you have that platform as a performer there should be nothing stopping you from being the creative you evidently are.
PAM: Be authentic. Keep your integrity. Keep learning and developing your skills continuously. Know what you want. Build your company upon solid values. Be patient. Meditate. Pursue your wellbeing and other peoples. Try to always be truthful especially with yourself. Be committed to your team and staff.
Conundrum runs at The Maria Studio from 9 May - 30 May 2020. Book Now.
Conundrum is supported by Arts Council England, PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund, Thrive LDN, Black Thrive and Royal Victoria Hall Foundation.
Image Credit: Sarah Hickson