A member of the Leeds Playhouse Ensemble, Lladel Bryant tells Giverny Masso how an encounter with director, actor and writer Kwame Kwei-Armah inspired him to pursue his career…
How did you get into acting?
I fell into theatre. When I was at school, I had a great drama teacher, One day she wheeled the old video machine into the classroom and put on a video of Kwame Kwei-Armah’s play Elmina’s Kitchen. By chance, the play came to West Yorkshire Playhouse (now Leeds Playhouse) and a few of us went to see it. I remember thinking ‘wow’ – my teacher encouraged me to write to Kwame, so I sent a letter with my name and home number at the top.
Did you receive a response?
He actually called my house phone and said to my mum: “Thank you for raising such a lovely boy.” I’d mentioned in the letter about enjoying the play and potentially being interested in becoming an actor. I enjoyed performing, but, as for most boys that age, it was all about football. Kwame inspired me to want to act in a big way, not just because of seeing him act, but because of how he goes that extra mile to connect with people.
What do you enjoy about being part of the Leeds Playhouse ensemble?
It’s being a part of the wider family at the Playhouse. Often people come to the theatre and see a show and leave, but there are so many departments working behind the scenes. There’s a great outreach programme, which focuses on bringing those who don’t usually experience theatre into the venue. For example, the theatre has worked with local company RJC Dance at the Mandela Centre on Chapeltown Road. I had the privilege of being a part of that company, helping run the training, before I joined the Playhouse, and a lot of my peers came through that organisation.
How have you found the experience of performing in A Christmas Carol, which is currently running at the Playhouse?
It’s been tiring, but it’s been an incredible experience. With the ensemble, although you spend so much time together, as soon as you get on that stage, it is all about professionalism. I’ve learned so much from the other actors about the craft, being professional while still being able to enjoy it.
As a working dad, do you feel there should be more support for parents in the industry?
It’s imperative – it’s so crucial. Theatre is about exploring the human condition, and as a parent you get to see and understand what makes a human being laugh and cry. I think there needs to be more support to ensure parents can keep working in the industry. We’re actually expecting a second child at the moment, and Leeds Playhouse has been very supportive. I’m able to bring my family into rehearsals and let them be a part of the whole experience. That’s not just my partner and my son, but also my little sister who has been able to come along.
A Christmas Carol runs at Leeds Playhouse until January 19