TBB Talks … The Play That Goes Wrong With Ashh Blackwood

Ashh Blackwood trained at both The Guildford School of Acting and The BRIT School in Musical Theatre.

She has also been writing poetry since 2018 and is an award-winning Spoken Word Artist. Her credits include playing Evillene in The Wiz (Hope Mill Theatre); Horrible Histories – Terrible Thames (Birmingham Stage Company); Ira in Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart (RNIB & Bonnier Books) and more.

Ash currently plays the role of Annie in Mischief theatres The Play That Goes Wrong which is about … well the name says it all. The actors and crew blunder their way through their final curtain call of a whodunnit play but everything seems to just fall apart.

We caught up with Ashh to talk about the play and being the first Black woman to play the role of Annie in ‘The Longest Running Comedy In The West End‘.

Please introduce yourself…

Hello. My name is Ashh Blackwood, born and raised in Croydon, South London, and my heritage is Gambian, Jamaican and Irish. I’ve been a professional actor for the last 2 years.

Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now.

Overwhelmingly blessed!

You have joined the cast of the longest-running comedy on the West End, Have you ever watched or heard of the show before? How excited were you to join the cast?

I had heard of the show when it came out in 2014 but didn’t watch the show until I got an audition for it. I’ve had people over the years say I would be great in it because the humour is very similar to my own. I watched the show 4 days before my first audition and I knew I had to be in it and it made me really excited for the entire audition process!

How would you describe the show to someone who hasn’t seen it?

If you’re into slapstick humour and 2 hours of organised chaos, then this is the show for you!

You play the role of Annie can you tell us about the character and whether you have put a fresh spin on her? Have you felt any pressure to characterise Annie in a particular way?

Annie is the stage manager of Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society. She is very hands-on when it comes to behind the scenes as she’s in her element here. She does get very shy in the face of an audience when we first meet her, but she has a lovely warmth to her that makes you want to root for her.

In the past, Annie has typically been portrayed with a Lancashire accent. In the audition brief, they gave us more freedom to try any accent that wasn’t RP. I made the decision to bring part of my heritage into the role and make my version of Annie Jamaican. I’m really glad the decision paid off and I’m making history as the first black actress to play Annie full-time in the West End. I’ve never felt any pressure to copy or imitate past Annies. The directors and the writers enjoyed the new spin I brought to her, whilst still honouring her mannerisms and personality.

Ashh Blackwood (Annie) in The Play That Goes Wrong, Duchess Theatre

You are a new actor, how has it been navigating the field, what’s the best advice you have gotten and from who?

I graduated in 2020, and if you told me that in 2 years, I’d already had a diverse career ranging from commercials, audiobooks, a musical and more live theatre, I would have laughed at you! It’s actually been so much fun doing jobs I didn’t expect to do and so I’ve gained more knowledge and experience in these areas which I’m really grateful for. Although I know neither of these actors personally, I remember when Chadwick Boseman passed away in 2020 and Lupita N’yongo mentioned that he would “take his time and not waste his time’’ when it came to his career. Those words have stuck with me since and I’m adapting not to rush into things if it doesn’t feel right.

One element of the play is the focus on the relationship actors have with the audience, with Annie starting off as quite a reserved character who essentially does not want any attention how does her relationship with the audience develop over the course of the show, and for you as an actress how do you navigate playing the role and, keeping to the script but also adapting to the response of the audience?

We first meet Annie in the pre-show, and from the get go, she is constantly being thrust into audience-facing dilemmas in which she has no choice but to face them. Annie’s character arc really peaks towards the end of Act 1 and the majority of Act 2, where she learns to really love the audience and becomes a lot more confident interacting with not only the audience but also the other characters on stage.

In terms of navigating the role, the range of audiences that we get certainly keeps me on my toes. What could be a really funny section for one audience could be a completely different section for another. Of course, everyone is expecting to see a comedy, but I’ve learnt a lot from different audiences that some may lean more towards the physical comedy, and others may lean more towards the script itself and the slapstick humour. The script itself is so well written and there’s always something for everyone when watching this show.

Do you have any memorable moments where something has gone wrong that wasn’t supposed to, how do you deal with that situation?

I am surrounded by an extremely funny cast daily, so not so many things that have gone wrong, but more so if an actor improvises a line which hasn’t been done before, it’s REALLY hard not to laugh at them. Most times I’ve been okay, but on occasion, I just haven’t been able to contain the laughter!

Tendai Humphrey Sitima, Ashh Blackwood and Mikhail Sen in The Play That Goes Wrong at The Duchess Theatre – Image Credit: Robert Day

You trained at The Guildford School of Acting and The BRIT School in Musical Theatre and are an award-winning Spoken Word artist. Where did your love for performing come from?

My love for performing came from my father. He is a singer and former actor. Watching him from a young age on TV and seeing him perform in the West End many years ago made me want to go down the same path. He’s been a massive inspiration for me and I’m proud to have followed in his footsteps.

Have you got any other projects on the horizon that you’re excited about?

At present, I don’t have any major projects until at least next year, but I do create a few TikTok videos which have been doing very well in the past few months. Feel free to check that out!

GETTING TO KNOW YOU

  • A book you have to have in your collection? Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

  • A song / album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date?  Tems- Free Mind

  • A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? Literally ANYTHING Marvel-related.

  • The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)? I believe it was a panto in Redhill when I was about 6. I can’t remember which one but I was mesmerised by the set and all the audience participation!
  • What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? Glad- Went to an art class with Prosecco called Brush and Bubbles. A very wholesome day. Mad- The train strikes! Sad- You know what? It’s been a good week. Nothing to be sad about.

The Play That Goes Wrong runs until April 2023 @ The Duchess Theatre. You can keep up with Ashh on Instagram and her Website.

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