Anastasia Osei-Kuffour is the director of Soho Theatre and Nouveau Riche’s World Premiere of Typical, the film version of the hit stage play, released exclusively on Soho Theatre On Demand from 24th February 2021.
A powerful exploration of racism and how British society stereotypes Black masculinity, this urgent and important new drama is created by award-winning creative movement Nouveau Riche and Soho Theatre, London’s most vibrant producer of new theatre, comedy and cabaret.
Written by award-winning playwright Ryan Calais Cameron and directed by Anastasia Osei-Kuffour, Typical uncovers the man and the humanity behind the tragic true-life events of Black British ex-serviceman Christopher Alder and the injustice that still remains twenty years since his story emerged.
You’re directing the filmed version of Ryan Calais Cameron’s Typical, what can you tell us about the play?
Typical is a one-man play about a man planning to have a fun night out, we are with him at the beginning of his day, as he is getting ready, cracking jokes and telling us about his children. The moment he steps outside of his flat he is a Black man, facing the systemic racism that exists here in the UK. His night begins with fun but ends in tragedy . This play is based on the true story of Christopher Alder and scenes are inspired by the events that happened to him on the last night of his life.
It started as a stage play, which you also directed, why were you initially keen to get involved?
I admire Ryan, the writer, and his company Nouveau Riche for the calibre of work they create, so when I got the email in early 2019 from Ryan, asking me to read the play and consider directing it, I was excited. As I read it, I felt it was a powerfully poetic and engaging play and then when I realised it was based on a true story, I was floored. I was sad that I did not know about Christopher Alder prior to reading the play, and I felt a strong passion and resolve to direct this play to the best of my ability, to get its powerful message across in the best way possible.
What surprised you most about this play when you first read it?
The rhythm, jokes, musical references, and poetry of it was captivating to me when I began reading it, the thing that surprised me is how well Ryan writes the turn of events within the play. The moment when the night turns ominous for our protagonist is both gripping and heart-breaking. Ryan manages to make you laugh and cry in sorrow within a short space of time.
What challenges did you face in directing the play for film after having directed it for the stage?
We filmed the play just as the social distancing guidelines relaxed last summer, which meant we could actually do the project but we had to adjust to a different way of working; having our masks on, hand sanitising all the time, not hugging or touching each other, our movements around the Soho building being restricted to one-way routes. It was a weird experience but absolutely necessary to keep us all safe.
Another challenge was supporting Richard Blackwood, who we cast in the original stage play. There was such a big gap from that show closing at Soho Theatre in September 2019, to filming this version in July 2020. We had to work quickly and Richard did well to get back into show-mode 10 months on.
Additionally, this was my first major film directing so I had to quickly adapt my mindset from theatre to film and understand the ways in which we could take advantage of the medium and sort of create a hybrid theatre-film show. I was grateful to have a team who really believed in me and supported me as I directed.
It was filmed during the pandemic, how difficult was it to create work during this time?
It was challenging, I miss the days where I was able to be close to everyone I am working with and not be so restricted in the various things we have to do. But to be honest, we were all so grateful to be working after being so long in lockdown and after experiencing how the pandemic has devastated our industry.
We were also happy to be working on a show that feels so important. The George Floyd murder had not long happened, and it felt so important that we were working on delivering this story in a medium where many more people can access it and be more aware of the fact that the UK has its own problems with racism that need to be urgently addressed.
Typical will be available on Soho Theatre On Demand, what would you say to anyone thinking of watching?
Sign up as soon as possible to watch it and share with as many people as possible. I hope for the film to raise greater awareness of systemic racism and Christopher Alder’s story, so that change can happen.
It is both joyful and heart-breaking to watch so I would also say that people should be aware of that and take measures to protect their mental health, if they feel triggered or disturbed by the material. At the end of the credits for the film, we list organisations that people can contact after watching the film, to receive help. 10% of proceeds from the film are going to Inc Arts Minds which provides free therapy to Black Artists, so Inc Arts is another organisation that can help some of those watching as well.
Typical, directed by Anastasia Osei-Kuffour, will be released exclusively on Soho Theatre On Demand on 24th February 2021. Tickets are on sale here