Rakie Ayola’s first job was as a narrator and ensemble member in Made in Wales Stage Company’s Branwen performed outdoors at Chepstow Castle and St Davids Cathedral
My first job was with Made in Wales Stage Company as narrator and ensemble in a piece called Branwen, an epic poem written by Tony Conran. We rehearsed and opened at Theatr Clwyd, before performing outdoors at Chepstow Castle and St Davids Cathedral. It came about after director Gilly Adams saw my work at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and asked my tutors for consent to offer me a job that would require me to miss the final term. They said yes.
The week before, I’d had a call via Spotlight to audition for an assistant stage manager/understudy role in a national tour of Hair. I travelled to London for my first professional audition and sang Cock-Eyed Optimist from South Pacific. I was thrilled (and amazed) when they offered me the job there and then. Now I found myself having to choose between an Arts Council-funded six-week play and a 12-month commercial tour. Andrew Neil, who was then head of acting, advised me to take the play. Since my dad had no money, I’d received a full grant covering fees and subsistence (thank you South Glamorgan Education Authority), so I had no loan repayments to worry about. I therefore followed Andrew’s advice and took the play.
My dream to be able to call myself a professional actress (only later would I refer to myself as an actor) had been made a reality, and everyone on that first job was so open, generous and imaginative. I have no idea what ‘process’ everyone was employing. It seemed that was their personal business and was never discussed. It was a revelation to me – straight out of drama school with all its talk of theatrical gurus and methods – that actors could come to the work from completely different angles, yet after some (often heated) debate would find a way to tell the story with depth, clarity and grace.
From my first day to this, I’ve never asked an actor what their process is. I honestly don’t care. As long as we manage to meet in the middle, there’s the potential for magic to be made.
Training: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Theatre includes: On Bear Ridge (NT Wales and Royal Court), Strange Fruit (Bush), The Half God of Rainfall (Kiln), Leave to Remain (Lyric Hammersmith), Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Palace), King Lear (Talawa/Manchester Royal Exchange), 4.48 Psychosis (Crucible), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (Apollo)
TV and film include: Anthony, Noughts and Crosses, Shetland, No Offence, Doctor Who, Holby City and (as executive producer) Twelfth Night and Safe Space
Agent: Alice Coles at the Artist’s Partnership