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Interview with Jonathan O’Boyle | Rasheeda Speaking | Trafalgar Studios

Rasheeda SpeakingTanya Moodie (Trouble in Mind) and Elizabeth Berrington (Absent Friends) star in the UK premiere of Joel Drake Johnson’s tense workplace drama Rasheeda Speaking, also featuring Bo Poraj (Miranda) and Sheila Reid (Benidorm).

In one of Chicago’s wealthiest hospitals, a white doctor tries to remove a black receptionist by enlisting her colleague as a spy. The women’s friendship quickly deteriorates and a chilling power struggle ensues. With the office becoming a battleground of passive aggression and paranoia, things spin wildly out of control.

Directed by Jonathan O’Boyle (Hair, Dear Brutus) and produced by Troupe (Dear Brutus, The Cardinal – The Telegraph Critics’ Choice), who make their debut at Trafalgar Studios.

Our Q&A with Director Jonathan O’Boyle.

Jonathan O'Boyle (Photographer Mitzi de Margary)
Jonathan O’Boyle (Photographer Mitzi de Margary)

Q: While this is the UK premiere, Cynthia Nixon previously directed the production in New York City during the 2014/15 Season. In terms of direction, do you start with a ‘clean slate’?

Jonathan: I always start with a clean slate when I am preparing and researching a new play. I try to avoid looking at reviews or production images as this might subconsciously influence how I approach the play. Once I’m a bit further down the line with the design process and other preparation, I might have a look at interviews from around the original production. I’ll always research the playwright and their work.

This is different with a classic text or with a playwright such as Shakespeare. There have been so many hundreds of versions of his work that looking at the production history over the years can be illuminating.

Q: For you, what is at the heart of directing this play?

Jonathan: Rasheeda Speaking is a dynamic and provocative play. It goes right to the heart of racial politics in the workplace. The heart of the play for me has been examining the relationship between the two main characters – Jaclyn (Tanya Moodie) and Ileen (Elizabeth Berrington). Most of the rehearsal is being spent delving into the characters complex working relationship with each other and their surgeon boss.

Q: “Joel Drake Johnson’s incendiary timely new play examines underlying racism in the workplace, white guilt and the manipulation of women by men in power.” What do you hope that the audience will take away with them after watching and experiencing the production?

Jonathan: One of the play’s themes is looking at how we see and treat each other, not only in the workplace but in the wider context of our lives. I want people to examine their world view. We should never judge people. This may sound obvious, but the play examines our differing viewpoints of peoples lives and backgrounds.

I hope people will see that we never truly know what is going on in someone else’s life. Kindness and compassion towards each other is fundamental.

It also poses wider questions about racism in America, and whether in the post-Obama Trump administration, is racism on the rise or even worse – is it being encouraged and tolerated in a way we never expected? The play raises issues that remain unresolved and I want the audience to take this away with them after experiencing the play.

Q: Why should theatregoers get along to watch Rasheeda Speaking?

Jonathan: This is the UK premiere of Rasheeda Speaking. It’s a brilliant, funny, poignant and provocative play that will have you thinking about the themes of the play long after you’ve left the theatre. It raises questions about our own world view and how we treat each other. It also has a stellar cast comprising Tanya Moodie, Elizabeth Berrington, Sheila Reid and Bo Poraj. So getting to see those actors share the stage and work together is a total joy in itself!

Trafalgar Studios 2
14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY
Wednesday 18 April – Saturday 12 May 2018


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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