Tag Archives: almeida theatre

Duramaney Kamara: actor in Boy

4 May

‘Boy’ at the Almeida is a ground-breaking show about what it feels like coming of age in austerity Britain. The play, written by Leo Butler, has a 27-strong cast of which 16 are making their stage debut, including an 18-year-old student from Islington, Duramaney Kamara. Interview by Nicola Baird

Duramaney Kamara - debut performance in Boy at the Almeida Theatre (c) Kwame Lestrade

Duramaney Kamara – debut performance in Boy at the Almeida Theatre. Whether you’ve seen the show or not you can join a young people’s free panel discussion this Thursday (5 May) with the writer. See how at the end of this interview.  (c) Kwame Lestrade

Duramaney Kamara is very different from Boy’s lost central character, Liam – and perhaps that’s no surprise when he admits that his mum was on stage when she was nine months pregnant, making him able to say “he was on stage before he was born!”. In fact it’s Duramaney, playing Lamari, who has just enough interest in track suited-Liam to give him a proper telling off (no one else seems to notice Liam). But as Duramaney wisely points out, “everything Lamari tells Liam he is saying to himself…”

The play has a host of characters Londoners will recognise – from mobile-addicted schoolgirls waiting for the bus home to non-English speaking road workers – so in his debut Duramaney also plays a teenage son in the doctor’s reception, toilet attendant, person in the crowd and Sainsbury’s worker.

It’s clear he’s chuffed to be on stage in his home borough, Islington. “Because it’s my first time on stage I thought doing the same thing every night I’d find boring. But it’s not! It’s new every night. It’s like life – you can’t get bored of life because you are living it,” he explains.

NEVER MISS AN ISLINGTON FACES: if you enjoy reading about people who live or work in Islington please follow this blog by email (see how on right hand panel). Fresh interviews are published once a week.

“We had 13 hour rehearsals,” says Duramaney explaining why it’s been so hard organise this interview when we meet on a Thursday lunchtime over an orange juice in the Almeida Café. For him life could be considered a bit less busy now that he is just doing a show every night at the same time as finishing off his final A level year studying Drama & Theatre Studies, Music and Music Tech at City and Islington College…

Clerkenwell Primary.

Clerkenwell Primary.

Duramaney lives with his mum and dad, both professional singers/musicians, just off Essex Road. He’s born and bred Islington: his early years were spent at Clerkenwell where he went to Clerkenwell Parochial Primary School on Amwell Street. “In year 3 or 4 we done a play at Little Angel,” says Duramaney. “We all had puppets and then my dad said I should do some drumming. I was shy but I did it…”

In fact Duramaney was only four years old when a bloke in a pub predicted he’d make a great trumpet player. “I was sitting in the Three Kings Pub, opposite St James’ Church, when someone gave me a cornet (a very basic trumpet) to hold. I started playing around with it and getting a sound,” he says, “so they got me a trumpet.”

Duramaney really likes to sing and MC, and as with all the instruments Duramaney plays – trumpet, piano, keyboard, guitar and percussion – he’s self-taught. “I tend to use my ears and then see if I can play it back,” he explains. His mum Basha Letsididi, a singer, originally from Botswana, taught him how to read music, but “I only recently started doing grades – I got a distinction in Grade 3 trumpet,” says Duramaney understandably proudly. He’s also had support from Richard Frostick from Islington Music Centre and his music teachers James Hunter at Bishop Douglass in Barnet, where he went to secondary school, and Jack Davis at City & Islington College, praising them both for “building my confidence.”

Music is a huge part of Duramaney’s life – after the show, and after his summer exams he hopes to spend a gap year doing “voice acting as well as other acting jobs” and working on his music projects. For now he has to be content with, “Our house being full of music. It’s either me playing my stuff – I listen to a lot of jazz, John Coltrane, Fela Kuti (from Nigeria) and I also play a lot of Bob Marley, Curtis Mayfield and perhaps oddly for a teenager I like classical music. Mum will be singing or rehearsing and Dad is either fixing or playing drums…”

The company of Boy at an Essex Road bus stop. (c) Kwame Lestrade

The company of Almeida Theatre’s Boy at an Essex Road bus stop. Duramaney Kamara is in a grey hoodie. (c) Kwame Lestrade

The play’s the thing
Boy is a bleak play, it’s had 4* and 5* reviews, but it is an uncompromising view of the struggles many poorly educated white British teenage boys find themselves in, and is as relevant to Islington as to Crystal Palace where the writer Leo Butler lives. Most of the play revolves around life at a bus stop using an ingenious moving travelator (like they have in Yo Sushi and airports). There are moments – especially the start – which are very funny, but the overall impression is that Liam hasn’t a chance. So Islington Faces was curious if Duramaney knew any Liams, and what he thought of the show’s Liam…

“I do like Liam. At a point in life everyone can be a Liam. There’s a lot of pressure and you have to hide it. Some people grow up without a healthy household and they have to grow up fast. With teenagers it’s all down to peer pressure. People need to prove something to someone to get a thumbs up from their peer group. If you look at gang culture, there’s pressure from someone older to do something for that thumbs up. Other people get that thumbs up for getting an A grade,” he says.

“For Liam he’s got no guidance. Even his vocabulary is really diminished – he repeats what other people say. It’s heart-breaking the way he looks to other people,” explains Duramaney.

Liam is the teenage boy who has fallen through every safety net. Even if most of the audience longs to help him find the resilience to clamber back up, Cameron’s Britain is unforgiving. You’ve got to get on and make it when the odds are so stacked against you – with minimal support from parents who may well be separated, working Zero Hour contracts, dealing with mental health issues or completely distracted by money and housing problems.

The Union Chapel has been called a Tardis. Here is one of the upstairs rooms used as the bar for shows. CAPTION It was built in 1877 (on the site of the too-small chapel erected in 1806). Impressive past worshipers include Asquith (Liberal PM, 1908-1916) and the poet John Betjeman’s mother. Betjeman’s involvement helped save it from demolition in 1982. Many worshippers came from both right and left.

The Union Chapel’s bar.

Places Duramaney Kamara likes in Islington
“Islington is supposed to be a prestigious borough, but the crime rate shows otherwise.”

  • Angel is a big hub for me. Everything is there and it’s a nice place to go. We eat at Bombay Burrito on 357 Goswell Road and Nandos at 324 Upper Street. Five Guys, 71 Upper Street, is expensive but there are some nice pizza shops.
  • Rosemary Gardens on the Islington-Hackney border is a nice place.
  • I like Union Chapel. I sang there with the Islington Music Centre choir. Great acoustics!
  • The Almeida is nice. I did a workshop last year with the college at the Almeida, during Oresteia, which was really brilliant.
  • You can go anywhere from Essex Road – I found this out on the day before my 18th party day and I realised there were buses for everyone. There’s the 38 to Victoria, 73 to Oxford Street, 56 to Leytonstone, 476 to Tottenham, 21 to Lewisham and the 76 to London Bridge…

Duramaney has a very different energy to Liam or the characters he plays in Boy, and he’s clear that’s because: ‘I’ve been taught by my parents to be independent and not to rely on anyone else.” But he admits he felt undermined by not getting a place at the Brit School, the Guildhall or the Royal Academy of Music. Thankfully he’s also finding that overcoming adversity can make you stronger – “I’ve learnt that there’s always a way,” he says with a big smile explaining how he hopes to study at Leeds College of Music… and, just for the record, a class of Brit School students (who would have been in his year) have come to see Boy at the Almeida.

It’s an interesting irony that such a bleak play should be giving Duramaney Kamara – and so many talented young actors including Frankie Fox who plays the lead, Liam – such a great opportunity to perform on as famous a stage as the Almeida. And you can join in too by coming to the young people’s panel event on Thursday 5 May, from 6pm, to discuss the ideas raised in Boy.

Find out more about Duramaney Kamara via soundcloud
https://soundcloud.com/dlk_the-genius/sets/new-garden or @DLKtheGenius

Thursday 5 May, 6pm come to a panel for young people exploring the ideas raised in Boy. It’s free and can be booked online – http://www.almeida.co.uk/whats-on/answers-back/5-may-2016
• Facebook /almeidatheatre Twitter @AlmeidaTheatre
Boy by Leo Butler is at Almedia Theatre until 28 May. Sign up to the email list at almeida.co.uk

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola


Tim Sayer & Annemarie Norton: art lovers

3 Feb

Everyone has a story. One Highbury couple has such a passion for art that in their home even the loo is a gallery. Meet Tim Sayer, a recently retired BBC radio news journalist, and his wife Annemarie Norton – a former ballet dancer – who makes costumes for opera, ballet, theatre and musicals. Interview by Nicola Baird

Tim Sayer and Annemarie Norton.

Tim Sayer: and Annemarie Norton at home. Tim: “I can’t think of anything worse than leaving Islington.”

Tim Sayer is an expert conversationalist. Perhaps it’s because his home is so full of books and all the walls, and many doors, are used to show off his fabulous art collection that every objet d’art can inspire an animated tale of friendship or fun.

“I’m a Londoner from north of the river,” says Tim about Teddington where he grew up – sadly with a father who was constantly unwell. By the time he was 17 he was ready for adventures such as rowing a skiff with friends from Kingston to Oxford up the Thames. “It was five days of fun, including pub breaks. We slept in the boat,” remembers Tim.

NEVER MISS AN ISLINGTON FACES: if you enjoy reading about people who live or work in Islington please follow this blog by email (see how on right hand panel). Fresh interviews are published once a week.

Over the years he has moved all round London including Kensington, Albany Street (close to Regent’s Park) and Primrose Hill.

In 1981 he was renting a flat in Finsbury Park when: “I heard about this place in Highbury and moved in January 1982. I’ve stayed because I love it here – there’s such a mix of people and they are so friendly.”

Like islington facesTim Sayer is a huge fan of the interviews and art on Spitalfieldslife.com - such a fan he's even hosted a party for the Gentle Author. Here's Tim with one of the Gentle Author's first books XX

Like Islington Faces Tim Sayer is a huge fan of the interviews and art on Spitalfieldslife.com – such a fan he’s even hosted a party for the Gentle Author. Here’s Tim with one of the Gentle Author’s first books, The Gentle Author’s London Album.

Places Tim Sayer & Annemarie Norton like in Islington

Tim: Upper Street Hardware (204 Upper Street) — their window motto is: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it”. And they’re right.”

Annemarie: “The staff are friendly and the food is fantastic at Gem on Upper Street – cheap and cheerful. We had our wedding reception there, and we’ve had lots of parties and dinners. The lamb shish is always brilliant and they do a great chicken salad.”

Newsagent at Highbury & Isilngton station.

Newsagent at Highbury & Islington station.

Tim: I go to the newsagent on the forecourt of H & I station. Harrendra Bhatt and his wife, Prafulla, have been there for 26 years. Networkrail turfed them out of their stall by the post office in 2008.  They appealed to the Secretary of State for Transport, Lord (Andrew) Adonis, but it was no use.

Annemarie: We don’t have papers delivered but we do have a milkman. It’s so unusual – he brings us milk and fizzy water. Strangely the day after this interview, the milk and water were stolen from the doorstep.

Tim: The Estorick is a jewel – I love the permanent collection of Georgio Morandi and some of their temporary exhibitions.

Annemarie: Highbury Self Storage on Melody Lane, off Highbury Grove is run by David Partridge and two able assistants, Barry and Tony. It’s very eccentric – we were using three units at one point!

Otti relaxing.

Otti, the cat, relaxing.

Two becomes one
At one stage Tim was tempted to move thanks to his burgeoning art collection. His flat wasn’t big enough for all the paintings as well as the furniture and possessions left from his and Annemarie’s family homes after both their mothers died. But then his downstairs neighbour agreed to sell the couple his flat in 2012.

“We completed on 18 December at 11.30am. I kicked the plasterboard down from my side,” says Tim showing me the bottom of the stairs where this happened. “Simon, my neighbour, said ‘it’s all yours now’ and gave me a glass of whisky and then the bottle! He still sometimes comes to stay.”

Dressmaking dummy in Annemarie Norton's studio - cleverly positioned by Aubrey Hepburn.

Dressmaking dummy in Annemarie Norton’s studio – cleverly positioned by Aubrey Hepburn.

It’s not that long ago but Tim and Annemarie’s house has few clues of the time it was split into flats. Every room is perfectly organised – the books are arranged alphabetically and the abstract art is mostly in the dining room.

Annemarie is another Londoner. She was born in Hampstead to Polish refugees and claims to have been “a very shy child. “When I was nine I saw a photograph of Margot Fonteyn* and I said to my mother I want to do that.” Soon she was immersed in ballet – she went to the Royal Ballet School and then the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam where she danced for 10 years.

Her main work now is making costumes with Sue Smith, including the recent Monty Python and Kate Bush tours. During The Bakkhai at the Almeida in Islington, with Ben Whishaw and Bertie Carvel, Annemaire says: “Our dress was covered in blood – I don’t know what they use for blood but we had to send it to the dry cleaner often.”

To relax she dances in a class led by dance legend Romayne Grigorova at Covent Garden. “Dance has always been a way to concentrate on oneself. So if I had any problems I’d always want to do a dance class – you have to be 100 per cent present physically and mentally. It takes you out of yourself and is extremely good therapy,” explains Annemarie.

Tim may not be a dancer, but he’s active too – using a bike to get around and joking that, “you’d be amazed by how many things I’ve carried home on a bike!”

Tim Sayer: “I was working for the BBC and had long shifts but that meant time off so I collected books and art. I was 17 when I bought my first portfolio of prints (from 17th and 18th century) for 10 shillings in a junk shop in Richmond. I’m still framing them up.”

Tim Sayer: “I was 17 when I bought a portfolio of 183 prints (I counted them) for 10 shillings (50p) in a junk shop in Richmond. I’m still framing them. That started me and long shifts at the BBC meant time off to collect books and, increasingly, art.”

Tim Sayer’s art collecting tips

  • “It’s very different from when I bought prints in a junk shop – big business is much more involved. People photograph everything so that they can can look it up and check almost immediately.”
  • Match up the artists you like with a friendly gallery. Don’t be put off by snobby West End galleries. Don’t let them intimidate you. Don’t buy for investment.
  • Make sure you’re not being fleeced by doing your homework.
  • Don’t over spend.
  • Go for what you like with your heart and soul. I make up my mind quickly. If you like it and want it always go for it.
  • Tell the dealer you want to pay monthly (not all at once). A good gallery will always agree.
  • You could try for a discount too, but that’s pushing it a bit.

For the love of art
For many years Tim was a BBC radio news journalist and it’s clear he still loves swapping news and stories. His art collection is very special, full of treasures, big names and work by artists he’s become friends with through his long connection with London galleries. Now he has arranged to leave his collection, and all the books, to the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery in Yorkshire, which opened in May 2011. This may be sometime away, so until then Tim and Annemarie are having fun inviting friends and art lovers (such as Kettle’s Yard members) to their house to enjoy the unique experience of art on the stairs, in the loo, around the snug and even on the ceiling. Best of all, this gallery is full of prints, watercolours, oils, sculpture and even spears chosen entirely because Tim loved them “heart and soul”.

  • From 30 April – 30 September 2016, 100 of Tim’s art works will be on view for the first time at the Hepworth Wakefield offering a taster of the Tim Sayer Bequest. See more here.

Margot Fonteyn (1919-1991) was an English classical ballerina. Her final performance was when she was aged 66.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.



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