Interview with Lorna Gayle (Mrs Anyia)


Lorna Gayle headshot

Lorna Gee Gayle is an artist who remains synonymous with the British Reggae sub-genre of Lovers Rock.  She has received numerous awards, including the 2012 BEFFTA and HiCrEc award for outstanding contribution to reggae music.

More recently, Lorna began to pursue her first love, which is acting. She spent three years at one of the country’s top drama schools, Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art.

She has appeared alongside Christian Bale and Heath Ledger in the Batman Movie Dark Knight and has also been seen in popular TV series including: Dancing on The Edge, Doctors, Torchwood and Eastenders. Theatre credits include: Blest Be The Tie (Royal Court) and The Crucible (RSC).

How are you enjoying the Egusi Soup rehearsal process so far?

It’s very challenging, but I love a good challenge.  It’s been difficult getting used to a new accent, a new rhythm and learning about a new culture because it’s not my background – I am from the Caribbean.  The lines are just one thing with all the other stuff to learn on top!  My saving grace is that Mrs Anyia has lived in England for over 30 years, so I don’t have to go too deep.

Tell us a bit about your character.

Mrs Anyia is a fierce but fun-loving woman who is very strong, focused and direct.  She’s got a lot a stake – she’s trying to hold her family together against adversity and honour her late husband.  She has many obstacles in her way and tries to overcome them in only the way Mrs Anyia can.  She is trying to do so much on her own – she is planning the one year memorial service for Mr Anyia, which includes organising the service, the band, the singers, the advertising of the event and trying to make connections with people; she knows exactly how it is supposed to go.  At the same time, she wants to do the right thing by her family.  She’s got focus and she knows what she wants.  She is one of those women I have grown up with and have a lot of affection for.

You’ve enjoyed a long and successful career in the music business.  What inspired you to turn to acting?

Acting was my first love.  As a child, I wanted to go learn about theatre as I was always clowning around, but at the time I was growing up, acting training was not accessible to me in my circumstances.  Music was easier to get into.  I always knew I wanted to entertain and get on stage.  I have been very lucky because I have made records and travelled but when I got into my late 30’s, I did a performing arts course.  I did this because I sat down one day and decided that I really wanted to do something I love doing, that I can be a pro at and get paid proper money.  I knew I was never a 9-5.  I always had a creative hat, and thought why not go back to my first love?  A friend encouraged me to audition for Lewisham College.  I was there for 2yrs and then I was encouraged to audition for drama school.  I didn’t know drama school was accessible to someone of my age.  I went to Webber Douglas at the age of 37 and graduated when I was 40.  I loved it there – I learnt so much about myself, acting techniques and the industry.

You’ve been politically active through your music and have performed at events such as the Red Wedge Tour and AAA (Artistes Against Apartheid). Would you say Egusi Soup is a political play?

Egusi Soup is not a political play.  It is about family, change and the evolution of people and relationships – it is about how a family can grow and change and evolve together.  Another important theme is grief: accepting and facing grief and the different ways that people deal with grief.  Egusi Soup is also a very funny play and the comedy comes out of real-life situations.  Comedy is created through familiarity and not farce.

What do you most enjoy about touring with a show/ what are you looking forward to?

I am really looking forward to playing at different venues.  I love touring and the spark for touring definitely hasn’t gone. I enjoy meeting different people, staying in different places.  I love the adventure and playing to different audiences.  Also, the company gelled and bonded really quickly and we soon became like a family ourselves.  There are 5 people in the cast and everyone is so solid; I am looking forward to touring with them.

What’s your favourite line in Egusi Soup?

I hope you are only carrying one suitcase because I will need to use your allowance’

I chose this line because I have heard it so many times in my life!  Every time my mum went back to Jamaica, she would try and fit a whole house into one suitcase, just like Mrs Anyia.  She would always get through customs with it too – she would sweet talk her way through.

If you were to describe Egusi Soup in three words, what would they be?

Passionate, poignant, proud