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Diversity star turns thespian

AFRICAN HERO: Ike Chuks is taking on the role of the political revolutionary Thomas Sankara in a new play

AFUA ADOM: Tell me how you got involved with the play?

Ike Chuks: Fate. I can only call it fate. Last October, I saw how much Thomas Sankara was trending on Twitter and I was wondering why he was trending, so I read a bit about him. I saw that he was the former president of Burkina Faso. I read about all the things he tried to do for his country and not just for his country but for Africa as a whole. And I thought this guy’s an amazing president, why don’t we know about him? He should be as well known as Nelson Mandela was.

About a week later, my acting mentor sent me an email and said the other guy he mentors is a director and a writer and he’s doing a play. He said the play is called Sankara. So I went for the audition – I was supposed to have two auditions. But after the first one, Ricky (Dujany, the director) just said, you’ve got the part. And that’s how I got involved in it. It was amazing.

AA: would you like people to take away from the play when they see it?

IC: I’d like people to actually be enlightened as to, you know, what’s going on in our current political era.

People also need to understand who Sankara was and what he tried to do. Not just for Africa, but for Europe too. Because there is a line when he says, ‘Those who want to exploit Africa are those who want to exploit Europe too’. So he wasn’t just trying to do everything just for Africa.

He was trying to change Europe as well. He started to change people’s mentality for example in regards to debt, and who we are all in debt to. How we make money, how we spend our money and who generates the money for us.

AA: What’s the best bit for you about doing this play and doing theatre in general?

IC: The best bit for me, number one, is playing the lead role as Thomas, being able to take on that responsibility of delivering the message that he was trying to portray the best way that I can. It makes me feel proud that I’m the person that has been given the opportunity to do it. And theatre for me, acting for me – it’s very fun. I love doing it.

A lot of people don’t know that I’ve acted before. I used to act, so this is a great opportunity for me to showcase another side of me. As it’s theatre it’s obviously completely different from screen acting. There’s a lot more exaggeration involved and trying to express yourself and you need to really project your character as much as possible. And that can be really fun.

AA: So that’s the best bit – what’s the worst bit?

IC: I haven’t had any worst bits. There hasn’t been anything negative out of it. There isn’t anything popping into my head!

AA: So you are the classic triple-threat – you dance, you sing, you act – which is your favourite?

IC: I don’t know – first I was a dancer. It was the first thing I discovered I could do. And then making music was second. And acting was third. Acting came about, like, you know when you don’t think you can do some- thing but then an opportunity presents itself and then you realise you can do it.

I realised I could act when I was in Diversity and Universal Studios wanted to do a movie about us. I was given an acting mentor and he was the one who said to me, “You must not stop acting because you are great at this”. I always take everything I’m doing seriously. He saw how seriously I took the whole thing – coming to class on time, making sure I knew my lines off the top of my head and then he was able to tap into my emotions. I will never forget one day when I was playing a character and he said to me, “You’re doing it okay, but not really giving it absolutely everything you could”. He said to me, “You’re angry but you’re not really angry”.

He was the one who taught me how to tap into my emotions and connect it with whatever scene I’m playing and whatever character I’m playing.

AA: What have you got coming up after the play?

IC: I’m in the process of shoot- ing a video for London Girl, a track from my EP Son of the Soil that I put out last September.

Then I just keep pushing everything like I do normally. That’s the plan.

Sankara is on at The Cockpit Theatre until Saturday April 14. Tickets £16, concessions £13

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