INTERVIEW: Nina Simone Star speaks ahead of final Lowry show

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NINA SIMONE – A Story about me and Nina Simone- comes to an end at Salford’s Lowry theatre as the incredible Josette Bushell-Mingo brings the icon to centre stage through performances of greatest hits and soulful theatre, Quays News Reporter Ingrid Lisman spoke to the star…

Versions of some of Nina Simone’s best-loved songs combine with a clear provocation in this production directed by Dritëro Kasapi as Josette Bushell-Mingo finds a parallel with the persisting inequality in today’s society and questions how far we’ve really come.

Nina Simone

Josette described her inspiration for the creation of ‘Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone’ as the moment “she had enough with society”.

“2015 was a year with so many deaths of Black people in the USA.

“I was disgusted, afraid and appalled.”

“I knew I couldn’t do Nina without lifting her civil rights work, and thereby reflecting on where we are and how we got here and where art comes in and when is enough. Other activists inspired me, my travels between the USA; Sweden and England these last two years and also to African continent – Gambia – it all just landed. I was inspired by my lack of courage and the recognition that I could be brave and say things using NINA as my satellite navigation to guide me through the days.”

Nina Simone

The play is a fierce dialogue about love, forgiveness and fighting back, a story created within Nina’s very own amazing songs, shadows of her life.

“You will see three extraordinary musicians.” Says Josette “Joy and humour. The audience can expect a great concert and theatre experience that will be both complex and simple”.

The actress, 53, was born in the east end of London to working class parents from Guyana, is the second daughter of four and the only one in her family that is involved with the arts.

Nina Simone

“In my last year at college I got a place at Breton University to study a BA in theatre but at the same time a theatre company called Kaboodle held a workshop at my college. After the workshop Kaboodle asked me to join- and the rest is history”, says Josette.

The actress wrote short stories and poems at an early age, many of which were published.

“Within my varied career, I have performed at the Royal National Theatre, RSC and the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester and I am an OBE and patron of the Unity Theatre. I am a guest professor at Washington University and Coventry University and currently artistic director for National Deaf Theatre of Sweden”, says Josette.

Josette Bushell-Mingo OBE is a Swedish-based English theatre actress and director. She was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2000 for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Rafiki in the London production of The Lion King.

The actress describes that the nomination for an Olivier Award made her feel “shocked and quite proud.

“It’s no small thing for a working class girl from nowhere”

Nina Simone

The play is to tour England in the Spring of 2018 and Josette Bushell-Mingo has a lot lined up for the year.

“I will be touring Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone in England throughout spring 2018 – there are plans for the tour to go America in the autumn. Preparation for two productions to direct in 2019, setting the repertoire for national deaf theatre Sweden, called Tyst Teater, I am chair women for Sweden’s biggest film festival and that’s in February, working to bring National Black Theatre of Harlem to Sweden, a documentary is being made about my work with Nina – starting my professor work at both Coventry and Washington and planning a long holiday in the summer – and that’s just January”.

“Jokes apart, it’s an incredible year ahead. I am happy and grateful and thinking of all the black voices I can give platform and support their voices through my work, remember those who we have lost and continue to witness and fight the racist structure that oppress us all..

“As Nina Simone said ‘freedom is having no fear’.

Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone found its home at The Lowry Tue 30 Jan – Sat 3 Feb 2018.

 

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