Afridiziak Theatre News caught up with award-winning actor Mimi Ndiweni currently playing the part of Ophelia in the RSC’s Ghana-inspired version of Hamlet. The production concludes its national tour at Hackney Empire at the end of this month.
This production of Hamlet has been very well received. What does does this play and cast mean to you?
Hamlet for me transcends generations and cultures and so can speak to everyone. This play is about love of family and in families, that is what I have always felt about Hamlet. What Simon Godwin (director) did with this production is take something from all the cast’s backgrounds and brought it to the stage.
How do you get prepared to embody a character like Ophelia – sweet and naïve to broken and unstable?
We didn’t have that long, about two weeks before the production. What we started with were the family scenes. I was raised by my father as my mother passed when I was young and Joseph (Mydell) who plays my father (Polonius) raised his daughter alone so we immediately had that understanding of what that bond would be like. This helped our scenes. With Ophelia I went on instinct.
Hamlet for me transcends generations and cultures and so can speak to everyone
I have always had issue with Ophelia going mad, the way I see it is that she had just lost an integral part of her world and so she wanted someone to hold on to/ connect with and there was no one. Ophelia just needed someone to be there. The preparation doesn’t really stop Simon regularly comes to touch base with us and we are continuously developing our work and I don’t think that will stop between now and when we go to the States. (Hamlet is going to Washington)
The audience were treated to some of your voice. Is this something you will develop further?
(Laughs) I can sing but I’m not a singer. My voice is for the shower and church. No, if a role requires a song I will sing but it is not something I am planning to take forward.
We should be more fearless about sharing our stories. They are needed.
What are you most drawn to stage or film? What does each give to an actor?
Theatre has given me a lot of characters and stories I can and do believe in so I’m loving that at the moment. I like film and TV and would like to do more but it would be great when the roles and stories are ones I can believe in. Right now theatre is doing that for me so I’m loving that.
You were in Danaii Guirira’s The Convert based in your homeland Zimbabwe would you like to do more work exploring themes from Africa and perhaps work on the continent one day?
The first time I read The Convert I remember weeping as it connected with me, I understood it. Danaii’s play was a gift and I have just received an award for my role, an Offie (Off West End Theatre Awards). It is so good and important to have these stories because they do resonate with people all over the world. We should be more fearless about sharing our stories. They are needed.
I have a network of black women and we are there for each other, supporting each other and it is so important.
What message would you have for budding ethnically diverse actors wanting to break into this world?
For me I had to change my psychology, there is this fear of everyone being after each other’s role. What you need to do is build your own network. I have a network of black women and we are there for each other, supporting each other and it is so important. We are walking together embracing our stories and differences; you need this because it develops you for all of these experiences. Surround yourself with people who share your vision and will support you in that.
What can we look out for seeing you in next?
I will be in The Forgiving Earth with Michaela Cole. It is written and directed by Hugo Blek.