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Alan Bates Award winner Moronke Akinola: ‘I want to be the best storyteller I can’

Moronke Akinola, winner of the 2019 Alan Bates Award

Bristol Old Vic Theatre School student Moronke Akinola recently won the Alan Bates Award, which is organise by the Actors Centre in association with The Stage,  for the most promising actor in the final year of drama school. She tells Giverny Masso why her dream role is to play a superhero…

What does it mean to you to win the Alan Bates Award?
I took it as a great privilege to be an ambassador for black girls and boys everywhere who might just see my face and go: “Oh, does that person do drama?” When I was getting into acting, so many people I met said things like: “I’ve got friends in drama school.” But I didn’t. All I knew were those American TV actors in shows such as That’s So Raven. Especially British black females – I didn’t see them, so I was going it alone, thinking: “Let’s just try this.”

What is your final production with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School?
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby – Part 1 and Part 2 is David Edgar’s eight-hour adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel. Nicholas’ father dies, so he’s now the man in charge at home. He ventures to find work and he ends up in Yorkshire with my character’s husband, who owns a boarding school for boys. I play Mrs Squeers from Yorkshire, she is awful. To build the nastiness, something new I’ve tried is to start with the physicality: how arched my back would be and how heavy my feet are.

What has it been like to train at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School?
I wouldn’t be the actor I am without my classmates, who challenge me. They’re bold, exciting, talented and making different choices. I see them and think: “I want to be the ultimate actor.” I want to be the best storyteller I can – and I can’t do that on my own. I have to watch others, see what I like and assess them so I know how to assess myself as well.

What is a challenge you have overcome in your training?
One of the biggest obstacles I’ve overcome recently is putting myself in my character. I’m a fun and lively person, but sometimes I step into a character and I become very serious. When I was studying A-level drama, the roles I played were always funny, but at drama school, I can’t remember the last time I played a character that was funny, so I’ve gone into this whole different realm. Now I’ve become more rounded, and learned how to put the fun into serious characters, because they’re real and they’re human.

What is your dream role?
I’ve been saying this from day dot: I need to be a superhero. The Marvel and DC universe has been my thing since I was young. I’d love to work at the National too – who wouldn’t? I want to perform in theatre, TV and film. I’d like to get to a stage where I’m writing my own work and directing theatre. I don’t want to stay in one place: I want to explore, but at the same time it’s important for me to do the right groundwork.

CV Moronke Akinola

Training: BA (hons) in professional acting, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School (2016-19)
First professional role: None
Agent: Markham, Froggatt and Irwin

Bristol Old Vic Theatre School student Moronke Akinola wins 2019 Alan Bates Award

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby – Part 1 and Part 2 runs at Bristol Old Vic from June 14 to 22, 2019

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