In a career that spans film, stage and TV, Indra Ove has had her fair share of provocative roles. The north Londoner portrayed Bianca in 1995 film Othello, played a criminal mastermind in BBC drama Bugs and a savvy politician in the west end's Yes Prime Minister. Not to mention her breakthrough role in Interview with the Vampire, which involved being, gnawed on by Tom Cruise.
Yet Ove shares that her current role in Nathaniel Martello White's Torn (read review) is "Unlike anything I've ever done before. It's intense, really intense”. (Laughs.)
The play focuses upon the Brook family who has been brought together by young Angel to uncover a deep, dark secret.
Ove explains that the show is somewhat immersive, with the staging forming a key part of the production. "The way that the creative team has set up the Jerwood Theatre means the audience feels they're in the room with us. So there's no escape for the audience, let alone the cast."
Ove plays Angel's mother, known simply as '1st Twin', with most of the cast being labelled solely as family members. When asked how she would describe her character the mother of two laughs "Have you read the reviews from press night? They call me a battle-axe of a matriarch!" (Laughs.) Ove goes on to reveal that after the play, people in the bar said they wanted to throw their footwear at her. But Ove remains philosophical about her role. "It’s a tough part. She’s unforgiving and not the nicest person, certainly to her daughter which I’ve found hard, especially as a mother myself. But what is beautiful about this play is that it allows you to dig deep and investigate why these characters have ended up like this. So although in a way I’m this wicked mother, I think by the end of the play you learn to forgive her."
Torn is a great piece of theatre with extraordinary writing and fantastic actors. It's very brave, it’s very raw and it’s heartfelt and truthful. I think it will touch you to the core
Ove comes across as sensitive and highly engaged as we discuss the play's subject matter. The charity runner hypothesises that most families have secrets and lies, which can be destructive.
"The play explores how burying the truth is often considered the best way to preserve a family. But in this case, the damage runs so deep that only the truth can begin the process of healing. The piece has a lot of truths to tell and a serious matter at the heart of it. It's a challenging piece, but in a way it's cathartic. Most of all, the cast has come together, we need each other. We’ve had to go to dark places where we didn’t want to go and in that its bonded us and we have to look after each other."
A unique factor in Martello-White's play is that it features a mixed race family, which Ove is incredibly enthusiastic about. "It's not seen on stage at all. AT ALL. So that's beautiful to see. Even down to the description of my character. For it to reflect who I am; mixed race with light skin, loose curls and green eyes is amazing. I don’t think I've ever had that before. The family has every variation of race in it and it explores that fabric of how you can have one light sister and one dark sister in the same family. It discusses race and also race in terms of family dynamics a lot and I think that's fabulous."
The way that the creative team has set up the Jerwood Theatre means the audience feels they're in the room with us. So there's no escape for the audience, let alone the cast.
Ove reveals that the play's exploration of race was partly what attracted to her to the piece. This felt particularly significant for the actress due to the pioneering work of her father, Horace Ove who turns 80 this year. The daughter of the first black British film maker to direct a feature length film, swells with pride as she discusses her father's triumphs. "He was the first black person at the BBC, he's even in the Guinness Book of World Records. What he achieved in his career, especially at the time that he was working was incredible. I'm proud to be his daughter."
Indra's own career choices seem to reflect a certain social activist gene. The vegan actress starred in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (read review), which focuses upon a young boy with Asperger's Syndrome. Speaking about the play, Ove enthuses how the play has raised awareness of autism. "After every show, the stage door is packed with families who say, 'That’s my son.' 'That’s my daughter.' 'That's my nephew.' And loads of teachers say 'Oh my God, I know now how to deal with the Asperger’s kids in my class.' Curious has made the subject of autism so accessible and seeing it through Christopher's eyes is such a clever way to do it. I think it’s had a massive impact. I loved it, I loved it."
The actress has also starred in BBC children’s' drama The Dumping Ground set around children in the care system. Ove goes on to explain that raising awareness of and supporting young people from such backgrounds is a huge passion.
Torn James Hillier (Steve), Adelle Leonce (Angel), Jamael Westman (Brotha), Lorna Brown (Aunty L) and Osy Ikhile (Couzin) (c) Helen Maybanks
The play explores how burying the truth is often considered the best way to preserve a family. But in this case, the damage runs so deep that only the truth can begin the process of healing.
"I think children in the care system or from troubled backgrounds all need a voice and a lot more support from our society. I work at a place called WAC Arts (visit website), which was started by a woman called Celia Greenwood. She realised there was a big gap in education for kids from that background. What's amazing is it has departments that are specifically aimed at kids who have been excluded, or who are vulnerable and on the edge of society. It takes these kids and rehabilitates them through the arts; singing, dance, acting and music. I've been teaching drama there for years and all the teachers are people who are active within the industry. I feel very passionate about that and I’m a mum as well, so giving back has always been a big part of my life."
As well as education, Ove is emphatic about theatre and shares her love of live performance. "I feel happy with my career, I’ve done a lot of television and some lovely films and I'm going straight into a film after this run. But I do love theatre with a passion. I love the liveness, I love the camaraderie and I love feeling the audience's reaction and having that sense of immediacy."
The star will shortly be combining her two passions, as a WAC student group will be seeing Torn and then attending a workshop run by Ove herself. It therefore seems pertinent to ask the teacher, mother, philanthropist, daughter and actress that is Indra Ove, why people should come and see Torn.
"Because it’s a great piece of theatre with extraordinary writing and fantastic actors. It's very brave, it’s very raw and it’s heartfelt and truthful. I think it will touch you to the core.”