Having waxed lyrical about Home, The Shed’s latest piece of experimental theatre, we were delighted to receive an invitation to interview cast member and former Misfit Antonia Thomas.
The London born actress, who came into the spotlight as clairvoyant Alisha Daniels in Sci-Fi TV series Misfits, has returned to the theatre to highlight the emotive issue of homelessness in the UK.
Choosing the cosy Shed bar as our meeting point, we grabbed a coffee (water for pre-show Antonia) and talked theatre, fashion, classical music and… 80s cartoon icon Penny Crayon.
What does home mean for you?
To me, it’s all about comfort, security and privacy. It’s your own space to be who you want to be, behind closed doors.
How important is the music and beatboxing in the portrayal of Home’s characters?
Incredibly important. Nadia, the director, uses the music as a way of speaking directly to the audience and to communicate the souls and psyches of the characters. It’s a way of showing those more personal moments as the young people we are portraying are often guarded in one-to-one conversation.
Is there a song that makes you think of home
It’s not necessarily one that people would expect, my dad’s an opera singer and every Christmas we play a recording of him performing Handel’s Messiah. When I hear it, I feel at home.
You tackle two very different characters with very different stories and accents, how did you prepare?
Yes, It was a pretty daunting challenge, but we were really well equipped for it. We were given transcripts and recordings of the real people behind the characters and then we were very lucky to to actually meet them in person and spend time with them. As an actor, that’s incredible preparation and a real privilege. The rehearsal process itself was quite experimental and fluid as we worked with Nadia to chop and change the order and passages of dialogue to see what worked.
It must have been tough to hear those stories first hand, particularly that of ‘Eritrean Girl’?
It was, but then, she’s very sweet, open and friendly. You’d never imagine the things she’s been through on meeting her. All the Target residents we met were great, the two bouncy and fast paced characters who give the tour of the foyer in Home, they are just like that in real life and you get caught up in their energy.
Despite the hard hitting topics, there is a tongue-in-cheek humour that runs through the show…
Yes, it’s so important for the audience to have a release and to laugh as well as feel the tension and emotion. The humour also helps to show the two very different sides of the people we are playing. Their vulnerabilities and the front they sometimes put on.
Home stars an incredible beat boxing champ, Grace Savage, but she has no dialogue, why’s that?
There were 210 people living at Target East and many of them didn’t want to speak or tell their story. I think it’s a really clever way to convey those people who didn’t want to speak about their experiences. It also makes the piece really resonate with a younger audience.
Three words to describe Home…
Truthful, honest, energetic
Some of the JOY team recently saw a preview of your upcoming film Sunshine in Leith, do you prefer screen or stage acting?
I like both equally, and they really are very different. I am so happy to be doing Home, I have only appeared in one other play in my career and when I studied it was always with the idea that I’d be on stage. It just so happened that I got my first role on Misfits and that lead to more television work, which was great. But, the difference with Home is I had four weeks to learn and develop my character, with TV, especially a series, the process is so much quicker.
We loved you as clairvoyant Alisha in Misfits, if you could have a superpower what would it be?
Did you ever watch Penny Crayon? I’d love her powers!
For those of you who didn’t watch Penny Crayon (you missed out), she was a cartoon school girl who used magic crayons to bring her drawings to life.
Haha, we love her too, so can you draw?
Well, I actually went to art school originally, I did a foundation at Saint Martins but I spent all my time there wondering what was going on at the drama school that was just over from our campus. I had a place at Chelsea to study art but I decided to apply for some theatre courses to see if I would get in. I got accepted to Bristol Old Vic theatre school, I do wonder how my life might have been different if I had gone ahead with art. You know like Sliding Doors, maybe I would have become an actress anyway?
Moving on to fashion, it’s kind of our thing, what’s the last item of clothing you bought.
I recently picked up a couple of new skirts from a vintage boutique, Pelicans & Parrots. I love authentic 1950s pieces and have a bit of a collection going; I pretty much spend all my money on vintage.
And what’s your number one fashion essential?
That’s a tough question, I like to mix my style up a lot so it’s hard to pick just one thing. I do wear my leather jacket, A LOT, I love it to pieces.
What brings you a little moment of JOY?
Simply having time to spend with my friends. In this profession you are always on the road and there isn’t much free time to just hang out with friends, it’s so good when I do get it.
I don’t know, we run wth Home for another three weeks and then Sunshine in Leith is released in September so I’ll be concentrating on that. Another film would be good. But who knows.
Let’s finish on Home, why should people go see it?
The issue it centers on is so important, there are an estimated 80,000 young homeless people in the uk; it’s getting out of hand. It’s really important for others to know just how severely help and funding is needed. Aside from the core message, it’s a piece of honest theatre and not necessarily something you’d expect from the National Theatre. It’s raw, experimental and a play that you can both laugh and cry with.
Home runs until September 7th, book your tickets now.
Sources: 1, 2, 3