Tobi King Bakare Talks … Before I Go @ The Housemates Festival

This month, the Housemates Festival returns to Brixton House inviting artists to take over the House for three weeks from 4th – 23rd July.

Themes explore the complexities of youth crime and rehabilitation juxtaposed with the Black joy of growing up in south London and millennial nostalgia, intergenerational conversations on radical activism; as well as delving into the complexities of family love and relationships; and probing the big life questions about how we all survive in a capitalistic world.

We spoke to some of the wonderful cast and creative involved in this year’s festival.

Please introduce yourself …

Hey people! I’m Tobi Bakare, I’m an actor and writer. Im originally from West, Ladbroke Grove to be precise. Now living in South East London. 

We recently spoke to you about Before I Go which premiered at the Camden People’s festival. How does it feel to now be a part of the Housemates Festival? 

Yes, we had such a great time at Camden People’s Theatre, we managed to sell out our run. Joining Housemates Festival has been a dream come true. We have the space and facilities to take Before I Go to the next level. An example of that is an our newest addition to the team, saxophonist (Lewis Daniel) to join me and our drummer (Tobi Adewummi) on stage.

Tell us more about your team …

The Before I Go team is filled with young multi talented creatives. Everyone has more than one skill to offer. Working alongside these creatives has made the show what it is today. The team has remained the same from our first run in 2022.  Director and actress Ozioma Ihesiene; Vocal and Movement Director Arkuen who is also a singer and actor; Producer Amaarah Roze also an actress, host and facilitator; Sound and Set engineer Sean Rey, also an actor, Graffiti artist, Gaffer, DOP the list goes on …  Stage Manager Justin Treadwell who is also a producer; Lighting Operator & Designer Ezra Mortimer, also a music producer; Drummer Tobi Adewumi also my cousin; Lewis Daniel, Saxophonist. Everyone pulls their weight!

Will you still be playing the role of Ajani and how do you balance being both the writer of the play and acting in it?

Yes, I am still playing the role of Ajani (for now). Being the writer and actor has been a blessing and a curse. The good side is that I more or less know the play like the back of my hand. Accessing the essence of the show is easier too. The harder side is trying to turn off that writer brain when we start playing around with things in the rehearsal room. Ozioma (our director) has been a great support in helping me find that balance. 

What does the story of Before I go mean to you personally?

The story of Before I Go is an ode to my younger self and many young men I saw in my community growing up. However, even in my life today I still take lessons from the play. The journey of unlearning mindsets caused by patriarchy and societal prejudice can take a lifetime. Occasionally, I slip up. But I’m reminded by Ajani’s journey that true liberation is allowing freedom within yourself. Freedom to express yourself and to allow emotions in and out as they come. 

Tell us about a challenging moment during this project that you had to dig deep to get through?

Singing. I’ve never been a confident singer. Ask me to improvise a 30 min sketch to an audience of 200 and see me transform into Dave Chapelle. Slight exaggeration, but you get my point. In the writing stages I wanted to push myself. I felt like the message I was trying to covey was asking people to embrace their uncomfortable so It was only right I faced mine too. In rehearsals, it was a struggle, I’d get in my head when I knew the song was coming up and start doubting myself. After doing the show a few times I’m happy to say I’m a lot more confident. It’s still nerve wracking but at least now when people ask if I can sing, I say yes. Huge shout out to talented Arkuen (our vocal coach) who helped me find my voice.

Tobi King Bakare in Cerebum

Tell us a memorable moment from rehearsals?

A lot of our rehearsals are just me and Ozioma (our director) working through scenes or dissecting the script. The collection of all of our table work days has been a huge highlight. I’m very happy to be working with Ozioma so early in her career. I know she has a bright future in our industry and can’t wait to see the future moves.

Which scene/character best defines what you love about this project?

Early in the play we meet Marcel (voiced by Taurean Steele) who is Ajani’s older brother. They share a phone conversation and Marcel says “I love you” at the end of the call. Ajani struggles to say it back. Ajani of course loves his brother, throughout the play he doesn’t stop going on about him. After the call you see that Ajani beats himself up for not saying it back. The inability to express himself runs so deep that it stops him from loving himself. This moment in the play shows a really clear relatable example of this.

Considering your career evolution, where does this project sit on your checklist?

It ranked pretty high in the list of things I want to do career wise. I’m really proud of myself and the team for making it happen. It’s taught me so much about theatre making, writing, performing and the industry as a whole. If you told me 2 years that I would be putting on a one man show in Brixton House I would have laughed in your face. But we’re here now. With all the new acquired skills, I’m excited to continue working through that checklist.

What other play from the Housemates Festival are you most looking forward to seeing?

I’m genuinely super excited about all the other plays. They all look so different and great; I’m trying to
catch all of them. If I had to pick three, I’d say : REP, Everything I Own, Is Dat U Yh (great title). 

What’s next?

I’m happy to announce a psychological thriller film called Cerebrum is out now and available to stream in the UK on all major streaming platforms. If you’re like me and enjoy them mind bending, lowkey scary, plot twisting films then this one is for you. The other projects that I mentioned last time are still cooking but I’ll be back with news on them real soon.

How do we keep up to date with you and your work?

Follow me on instagram! @tobikingbakare Thank you and hopefully catch you at the show.

Before I Go is part of the Housemates Festival at Brixton House and runs Tuesday 18th – Saturday 22nd July.

Book tickets here.


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