The actress spoke to Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon about the National Youthh Theatre production of F Off, taking place at the Criterion Theatre on the 20th August.
Hi Tiajna, thanks so much for talking to me. Could you explain a bit more about what F Off is all about? You’re very welcome! F Off is about people dealing with the effects of social media. We looked into how social media can affect politics, relationships, body image and our ability to feel safe online. As well as this, punctuated in the show is classical National Youth theatre ensemble work as we try to create a visual representation of the network around social media.
Could you tell me a bit more about your role in the production? Yes, my characters name is Nicola Oni, a labour party candidate who is campaigning for a Tory safe seat constancy, a place she feels she could never win because of the shade of her skin. Persuaded by a company called small world tech, she uses social media like Facebook to campaign for people to vote for her. She, however, ends up losing a lot to win the election and struggles with the ethical nature of using Facebook to influence an election. She’s a complex character who struggles with the morality of her decision to use social media in an election but also understands that, as a black woman, her options are very limited in terms of getting people to vote for her.
What were your first impressions of F Off? My first impression of F Off was that it would be exciting and challenging to pull off. I think plays that are about social media and are performed by young people can be cliché. However, I think the brilliance of F Off is that it subverts expectations by exploring themes that are pertinent to the news as well as personal experiences from the actual cast.
Did it make you feel differently towards social media? Yes, it has! I’d gone to uni and the degree I studied looked into the effects of social media on politics and other aspects of life so I already knew the positives and the negatives of social media. However, the great thing about this production was the fact that we got to meet different people from across the country with different experiences. That really contributed to change the way I felt about social media and its effects during this production.
How has it been working with Paul Roseby? Working with Paul has been excellent. He is really kind and funny – he always punctuates each note to the actors throughout rehearsals with a joke or a laugh. For my character, I had to tap into the mindset of the leader or the face of an organisation or party. This was something I felt like I didn’t understand, but Paul did, and by using his own experiences as an example, he really helped me understand how to play this character effectively.
What can audiences expect from the production? I would say audiences should expect a show that very much subverts their expectations on social media – especially Facebook and its uses. It’s not all doom and gloom though, there is comedy and magic and real human stories. And a lot of wool!
By Emma Clarendon
The National Youth Theatre presents F Off at the Criterion Theatre at 2.30pm and 7.30pm on 20 August. For more information visit https://www.nyt.org.uk/whats-on/f-off.