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Landi Oshinowo: ‘I’ve learned my craft on the job’

Landi Oshinowo. Photo: Richard Lakos

After roles in hit West End shows Shrek and Sister Act, the actor talks to David Hutchison about leading a musical revival – I’m Getting MyAct Together and Taking It on the Road – on a more intimate stage at Jermyn Street Theatre.

Your character, Heather, is a songwriter attempting to make a dramatic musical comeback – what attracted you to the role?

I got sent one of the songs and I thought: my God, I really like the sound of that. But also, I think it’s the character of Heather, and how I identified with her. She’s been doing the same old, same old for years and then says: ‘That’s it. I’m going to go and do something different, take a risk on myself.’ I could really identify with that, being in our profession, and you have to break away and break free sometimes. And she’s really strong and determined as well.

You’ve starred in both Sister Act and Shrek in the West End. How are you going to cope with the much smaller Jermyn Street space?

Oh gosh, it’s always a bit of a shock when the audience is so close to you. I was in Chichester in the Pyjama Game, and we were in the smaller theatre – it’s a little bit bigger than Jermyn Street, but you’re on the floor and you’ve got the audience right there. But there’s an intimacy, they’re almost part of it. Normally when you’re on the West End stage you’re so far from them, they’re watching you being in a different world, whereas when they’re that close, they’re part of that world. You can use them a lot more when they’re up close.

Do you believe your lack of training makes you different from other actors?

It always worries me that I never trained as my peers have. But I’ve learned my craft on the job. I’ve literally had to pull myself up that way. I mean, gosh, you can’t get on screen without some sort of training. When it comes to stage, knowing basic things like upstage, downstage, stage right, stage left… is a necessity. But I got that when I was younger and in drama class. A lot of people who haven’t been to drama school don’t have a certain homogenised sense of how to be. Some schools churn them out and they all come out the same. But when you’re not trained, you have a rawness to you that can be honed depending on the directors and actors around you.

How did your performing career start out?

In school I was in lots of productions, but I don’t think my parents were too thrilled about it. My father’s a barrister and my mother’s an entrepreneur. And, being their firstborn, I had to uphold some of the tradition. But I just knew that was it. I’m quite determined as well, like my character, Heather; if I’ve got something in my mind, I just have to do it. When I left my first school at 16, my parents refused… drama school was out. So I didn’t train. But I just did lots of little bits over the years – when I was in my 20s I was in a girl group for about four years. When that all went Pete Tong, I ended up in a job in a musical theatre cabaret show in a purpose-built building in Ibiza. And I’ve never looked back since.

CV: Landi Oshinowo

Training: none
First professional role: Performer, Ibiza Mardi Gras
Agent: Square Mile Management

I’m Getting My Act Together and [1]Taking It on the Road [1]runs July 6-2