Lois Chimimba is a proud Glaswegian young actress who chooses her work carefully.
Playing characters that she understands completely, thus far her choices have been good ones. In her acting career, she has made a great name for herself playing characters that are not only challenging but showcase how bright her future will be.
Her theatre roles include that of Aly in Wonder.land at the National Theatre and the Manchester International Festival, Deep written by Rebecca Ubuntu David at Talawa Theatre, Pitcairn by Richard Bean at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre with a UK tour, and Diary of a Madman directed by Chris Haydon.
We caught up with the actress to speak about her latest acting stint in Chekhov’s Three Sisters.
You play ‘Natasha‘ in new play ‘Three Sisters’ how did you get involved in the production?
I was brought in to meet the director and writer- Rebecca Frecknall and Cordelia Lynn respectively- by our casting director Julia Horan. We read a few scenes together, and had a chat about the play. I think, I was offered the part of Natasha a few weeks later.
The play is a production of Chekhov’s, in a new version by Cordelia Lynn. Had you heard of the original?
I had heard of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, but hadn’t read it and didn’t really know anything about it. I felt a bit of pressure, with it being Chekhov. I imagined it was going to be difficult to read, maybe a bit dense, but I was totally wrong on that front. I found Cordelia’s version so accessible and relatable. I was pleasantly surprised.
What drew you to the script and in particular what drew you to Natasha?
Natasha is such a wonderful part to play. She goes on such a journey, and I (correctly) thought it would be really a fun arc to find. So much changes for her throughout the story, and it gave so much opportunity to explore. I’d also never worked on a Chekhov piece before and was curious as to why so many love his work. I hoped it would teach me something new.
Can you tell us some more about Natasha and in what ways you developed the character?
Natasha struggles to find her identity and place within this group of people, and feeling so isolated, really fights for any kind of status. As the play unfolds, her relationship becomes very complicated; she becomes a mother; she tries to better herself. And although by the end she is still yearning for love and fulfillment, you could argue that she is one of few in the play that has been on an upward trajectory. I love playing her.
The most fun I had, trying to develop the character, was running the scenes with the rest of the company and finding something new with each try. I think I get more from what another actor gives me than what I’d ever find working alone. Sometimes the way to play a scene was instinctual, other times it would take me by surprise how another character made me feel. Then Rebecca would help us dissect those feelings and work with something tangible.
Was it hard being that originally it was written for a white woman about a time where we didn’t see representation for people of colour?
I really relate to Natasha and felt that the character in particular suits being played by someone different to the rest of the family. Yes, the part was written for a white woman, but who knows better what it feels like to be ostracised from a group of people for being different; for wearing different clothes; for sounding different; than a woman of colour- a Scottish, mixed race woman, in our version.
At first, it didn’t sit so well with me. I felt uneasy that this white, and very privileged community had a problem with the mixed-race woman coming into their household. But, I grew to find that it helped me. Whether the family is playing that they are conscious of it or not, my version of Natasha is acutely aware of the colour of her skin. She is the mother of ‘not white’ children. The way she speaks, at times, feels at odds with everyone else. But, all this makes up her reality and, essentially, gave me more to work with.
What about the era, it was set in 1900’s Russia what do you think audiences can learn from the experiences of the characters?
The beauty of the play is that it really is timeless. It deals with human existence and the, almost, banality of everyday life. I think that still resonates now.
The premise of Three Sisters is ‘what would you do differently in your life if you were fully conscious of a second go at it’. Is there anything you would do differently in yours if you had the chance?
I don’t think so. There’s still things in my life I want to achieve or could do better. But I still have time for that. Any changes I need could be implemented now- I hope!
You have taken on some unique roles in your career, for example, you played teenager Aly in Wonder.land a play by Damon Alvarns which was a digital age musical inspired by Alice In Wonderland. What separates the way in which you approached this role from others you have previously taken on?
I don’t think my approach ever really changes. I always try to get as much information as I can from the script. I guess, I try to relate to the character and think about why they behave the way they do, and what might drive me to behave like that. I’ve worked, mostly, on new plays, so often the biggest pressure is trying to get the text right. So there have been times I’ve felt alone, or one step behind when it comes to ‘doing the acting bits’. Whereas with Three Sisters, we pretty much had the final text from the start. It felt like a luxury, initially, but then you have so much time to overthink and dissect every choice you’ve made, and every move you make- one could almost go mad!
If you could play any part in any theatre production what would it be and why?
I don’t have a specific part I’d like to play. I’d like something that feels like a challenge and feels important. A story worth telling.
What is next for you, do you have any more projects lined up?
I’m about to start rehearsals for a new revival of ‘Noises Off’ at the Lyric Hammersmith… so come along, if you can!
Three Sisters is runs at the Almeida Theatre until 1st June 2019. Find out more and book your tickets here.