Brandon Grace stars in the UK première of Lynn Nottage’s Mlima’s Tale at the Kiln Theatre.
Miranda Cromwell directs Gabrielle Brooks (Githinji), Pui Fan Lee (Gouxi), Brandon Grace (Andrew), Natey Jones (Geedi) and Ira Mandela Siobhan (Mlima). The production opens on 21 September, with previews from 14 September, and runs until 21 October.
From two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage (The Secret Life of Bees, Sweat), Mlima’s Tale makes its UK première at Kiln Theatre. They call him Mlima, the mountain. Killed for his magnificent tusks, killed for greed, killed for ivory, his spirit journeys through the ivory trade market, marking those complicit in his barbaric death.
Directed by Miranda Cromwell (Death of a Salesman), this powerful and unforgettable story of the ivory trade and its corruption leaves its mark long after the lights go down.
You’re playing Andrew in Mlima’s Tale, what can you tell us about this new play?
Mlima’s Tale is the story of an elephant called Mlima trapped by the underground international ivory market. We follow Mlima on a journey through memory, tradition, fear and the penumbra between want and need.
What was it about Lynn Nottage’s script that made you want to be part of this production?
I thought the script was really haunting and beautiful. It asks important questions about the ivory trade – Who’s complicit? Where does it start? What’s it all for? – that got me interested. I was also drawn to how the play breaks form and that is always exciting to tackle as an actor.
Tell us a little about your character, what are you loving most about Andrew?
Andrew is the Director of Wildlife in Kenya. He’s stuck in a situation where he must face an emergency press briefing after something has gone wrong in his park. I am loving the accent work that we are having to do on the characters. All the physical challenges have been very exciting too. We all play various characters from different parts of the world so trying to pinpoint each one has been a really exciting challenge.
And what do you think you’ll find most challenging?
The play moves at such a fast rhythm. Keeping up with the pace of the story whilst also being clear with the story will be a challenge. A lot of quick changes too!
What have your learnt, and what surprised you the most about the topics covered in this show?
I’ve learnt about the ivory trade. I knew of its existence before but never went into a deep dive into what is really going on underneath the surface. What surprised me the most is the economics of it; the ridiculous amount of money involved in the ivory trade and how volatile the situations are between people.
What’s it been like working with director Miranda Cromwell?
Amazing! Miranda Cromwell makes a rehearsal room a place to try new things and experiment with what the scene could be. She encourages depth in the work but also play which makes going into rehearsals so much fun! We all really trust the vision she is bringing to the play; it’s such a privilege to be working with her.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Mlima’s Tale?
Book it! You will be very entertained but learn something along the way too.