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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Highly Anticipated Return to BAM

Next week, Paterson Joseph returns to BAM in Sancho: An Act of Remembrance—playing the BAM Fisher December 16—20. First seen on our stage as Brutus in the Royal Shakesespeare Company's 2013 production of Julius Caesar, Joseph reflects on his past BAM experiences and the joy of bringing African stories to Brooklyn stages.

Paterson Joseph in Sancho. Photo: Robert Day
by Paterson Joseph

After a month’s break, Sancho: An Act of Remembrance is about to have another outing in the United States. This time we’re playing two venues in Pennsylvania (August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh and Williams Center in Easton) and then a week-long run for our New York premiere at BAM.

I’m in need of a refreshment of my lines for Sancho, I realise, to my dismay. I certainly hope the feeling that I have the play sitting, intact, in the back of my head is not a false one. I’ll have to do a run in my head on the plane to the US from London . Hopefully, I’ll be sitting next to a sympathetic fellow passenger!

I feel very privileged to be able to play BAM again, as it is a well sought-after venue for any international theatre company. In 2013 I was part of the cast that took Julius Caesar there with the Royal Shakespeare Company. We were in the Harvey, a beautiful theatre built on the model of Peter Brook’s Parisian venue, Le Théâtre des Bouffe du Nord. All distressed walls and pillars, it gave our production, set in a fictional African country, a broken-down but holistic feel. As if the set, a copy of a rundown, African stadium, had always been a part of that space. Michael Vale, who is also Sancho’s designer, at his absolute best once again.

The audience came from all over New York and beyond; our talented company loved the time there. We were treated with such respect and support that I longed then to come back one day. I little dreamt that it would be so soon, and in a play of my own creation.

Finishing RSC’s Julius Caesar tour at BAM after playing the mecca of acting—Constantin Stanislavski’s Moscow Art Theatre in Russia’s capital—couldn’t have been a better way to end our fairy tale year exploring what the actor, John Kani of the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, described with reverence as, “Shakespeare’s African play...” Taking Sancho, the story of one of Africa’s greatest sons, to BAM will be a full-circle that I will be proud to complete.

Cyril Nri and Paterson Joseph in Julius Caesar. Photo: Richard Termine
The other great advantage of playing BAM, of course, is the fact that Brooklyn is such a vibrant, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic borough of New York City. Walking down Fulton Street which leads to the Harvey was like walking down Atlantic Road in London’s Brixton, proving that Brooklyn is one of NYC’s biggest, most vibrant, Afro-Caribbean communities. I’ll be playing the BAM Fisher, where we held an electrifying symposium on Julius Caesar in 2013. What better place to end this year of Sancho than in America?

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