I had the pleasure of speaking to Idriss Kargbo, who stars in the West End hit musical Wicked. We quickly caught up about his role in Wicked, theatre etiquette and overcoming securities as a young Black actor…
Who is Idriss Kargbo?
Me: Hi Idriss, so good to finally get to speak to you, your background is phenomenal for someone your age. You’ve played Young Simba in The Lion King, Eugene in the Young Vic’s Scottsboro Boys, and Donkey in the UK tour of Shrek, and now Boq in Wicked. Last night’s performance was outstanding, how do you feel about it today?
Idriss: Thank you! Last night was a great, incredible actually, and you never know what to expect from the audience. Every night always feels like the first. I took a risk getting into theatre, as I left college early to do this, and having African parent’s you know that’s not easy, but they’ve been so supportive and echo that school is always something I can go back to. Since Scottsboro Boys so many opportunities have opened up and I’ve learnt that in life, when opportunity knocks, I shouldn’t let fear hold me back.
Me: Wicked is an extraordinary show and I’ve seen it a few times now and witnesses how different audiences are. Some audiences are super quiet, others are so high in energy. What affect does the audience energy have on your performance? Do you prefer to be cheered on during the performance or to be watched intently until the roar of applause right at the end?
Idriss: Great question, and it depends. Quiet audiences often make me think “Uh oh, I hope they’re enjoying this”, but then it’s so worth it when you get a standing ovation at the end. Yet, I also love to be cheered on during the performance, providing it doesn’t get too distracting, some audiences can be OTT.
What’s your take on theatre etiquette?
Idriss: It’s always about being comfortable in your own skin and feeling free to be yourself whilst respecting others around you. It really is a fine balance. So here’s my three bits of advice, which might seem obvious, but trust me, it makes all the difference:
1) Arrive on time! – A lot of people don’t realise that we see you arriving late and having to get rows of people to shuffle up. It can distract us and even throw us off our lines at times. The worst is when it interrupts a punch line for a joke, so please, always arrive on time, or at least 15 minutes early.
2) Switch of your mobile phone – It sounds so elementary, but it’s distracting for everyone. The enjoyment of theatre is about being transported to somewhere else, and we work so hard to provide this form of escapism. Hearing your ring tone brings us all back down to earth again.
3) Don’t take photos – Even though it’s not permitted anyways, people still do this. We want you to keep the marvel and mystery of the show inside the theatre, so that the way you talk about it to others is enough to get them to come.
What insecurities have you faced being a young Black performer?
Me: You’re very humble and gracious about your successes, but you do know you’re seriously kicking down doors for many young Black boys and girls who might want to pursue performance arts right? It also goes without saying that 2017 has been an incredible year for Black and British actors off and on screen. What are your hopes for the diaspora on stage and on screen?
Idriss: To be honest I’m excited to diversity increase across all areas not just performing arts, and I hope that as a people who have been told to always ‘work twice as hard’, we continue to keep that momentum going and don’t plateau. Growing up I never saw people on stage with my skin tone or my height. As I continue to see people like Lupita Nyong’o among others on the big stage and screen, I can picture myself there too. It’s so important that especially as young people, we see successful people who look like us.
Me: You just mentioned your skin colour and height, have you found these to be barriers for you?
Idriss: I’ve always felt like the odd one out, particularly in castings. I’ve always felt very dark and very short, and it took a while to learn how to love myself. However, I’ve also learnt to always been humble and gracious, and to use what I’ve perceived as my weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
What are your words to live by?
Idriss: No matter how you feel or what’s happened to you in life, always know there’s a plan for you, and a bright future ahead.
Wicked is currently showing at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Be sure to catch Idriss Kargbo as Boq up until Saturday 22 July 2017. Click here for more details – https://www.wickedthemusical.co.uk/