The actress spoke to Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon about the world premiere stage production of White Teeth playing at the Kiln Theatre from the 26th October.
Hi Nenda, thanks so much for talking to me. For those who aren’t familiar with White Teeth what can you tell me about the story? White teeth is a witty tale about two families over three generations. The Joneses, half Jamaican half English, and the Iqbals, from Bangladesh, end up in North London together to raise their children. They are faced with questions of friendship, love, religion, betrayal and the everyday madness of the Kilburn high road.
Were you familiar with the story before you read Stephen Sharkey’s adaptation? I wasn’t familiar with the story before reading Stephen’s adaptation, but I have since finished the novel and thoroughly enjoyed Zadie Smith’s humorous storytelling. It deals with important questions of our society and makes you laugh at the same time. Stephen has managed to put his own spin on things, in a wonderful “Back to the Future” kind of way.
What were your first impressions of White Teeth? Zadie Smith has cleverly explored ideas of belonging and how British colonialism still influences generation after generation – even down to the mixed race girl’s wish for straight hair, the wish to fit in. I found it very relatable, and not only for people who have once, or twice been told to “go back to their own country”.
Could you tell me a bit more about your character Clara? Clara and her mother, a fanatic Jehovah’s Witness, move from Jamaica to London in the early 70s. As the 19-year-old runs from her mother’s oppression, she turns her back on religion and bumps into the much older Archibald Jones. They fall for one another in an instant, but also need each other and together they’re running from their old lives. They are married soon after and have a daughter, who grows up to be an intelligent girl, struggling with self-esteem and teenage love.
What has it been like working with Indhu Rubasingham? Indhu is an absolute pleasure to work with; she brings a huge amount of experience into the rehearsal room. Even though she is incredibly hard working, she still manages to make the rehearsals fun and a safe space for the cast to try things out. She has really encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, which is so important to become a better artist.
Was there anything in particular that made you want to be involved with White Teeth? I love the diversity and inclusive nature of this show, and being a part of the first adaptation for stage of such a brilliant novel is something very special. Also, to be able to work at the newly reopened Kiln Theatre with such a generous cast and company is just a dream.
What can audiences expect from this production? A lot of colours, music, and madness – Mad Mary is taking us all on a ride to coma land, from the 40s to the 90s and back to today.
By Emma Clarendon
White Teeth will play at the Kiln Theatre from the 26th October until the 22nd December. For more information visit: https://kilntheatre.com/whats-on/white-teeth/.