Poet, playwright and actress Jade Anouka received rave reviews for her debut play HEART at Edinburgh festival. The play tells the story of a woman grappling with the end of her marriage and the beginning of a new chapter in her life. Told through poetry, HEART celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the beauty of human connection. Jade has dominated our stages in many significant performances including; COCK (Ambassador’s Theatre), The Phlebotomist (Hampstead), Queen Margaret (Royal Exchange), Romeo & Juliet (Shakespeare’s Globe) and Moon On A Rainbow Shawl (National Theatre). On screen, she is best known for her roles in His Dark Materials (HBO/ BBC), Cleaning Up (ITV) and Turn Up Charlie (Netflix). In between takes filming the Dune prequel series Dune: The Sisterhood for HBO, we sat down with her to get her favourite behind the scenes places in Soho.
What was the inspiration to writing your play HEART?
My life. I had gone through a big change. The five or so years leading up to writing HEART were full of discovery, heartache, beauty, sadness and joy! But I hadn’t really processed it all. I was still in it, so to speak. I’d always used poetry as a way to release feelings I felt were trapped inside or as a way to step back and look at things from a different angle and HEART began as a vomit of words one long poetic spewing of feelings. I wrote it in one sitting. Thankfully for everyone it has gone through many rewrites and edits, I’ve had brilliant dramaturgical support and now it’s a play, it’s a piece of theatre that I believe is affecting, engaging and important. It’s beyond just me now. This is for all the queers, their loved ones and those who want to be better.
HEART is an autobiographical show, however were there any literary influences? If so, who?
Oh for sure, rappers like Left Eye, Jay-Z, Missy that I grew up on. Poets and writers like Sabrina Mahfouz, Laura Dockrill, Zawe Ashton whose poetry performances I was obsessed with when I was dipping my toe in the London poetry scene in the late noughties. Shakespeare, who’s work I’ve learnt to love, his audacity, making up his own rules and words and creating story through poetry. And my maternal Grandmother who first got me writing poems when I was a kid.
The Resident Soho is on the doorstep of some of the best theatres in the capital. What are your favourite theatres in and around Soho?
I have to start with your closest neighbour the brilliant Soho Theatre. I’ve been fortunate enough to have performed the one woman play CHEF there (written by the aforementioned Sabrina Mahfouz) and I’ve taken part in their writers lab project – which helps writers at the beginning of their careers. I performed in COCK at the Ambassadors Theatre and love the intimate setting of that West End stage. I think it’s the smallest West End theatre and it puts on really brilliant work. I’ve also recently fallen in love with @sohoplace a brand new theatre in Soho, it’s in the round – which is one of my favourite theatre settings to perform in. Terrifying but brilliant. I’d love to do a play there.
What has been your most special memory on stage in your career thus far?
That is almost impossible to answer. I can think of so many special moments. I think performing three major roles in three Shakespeare plays in one day has to be mentioned. Working opposite Dame Harriet Walter and an incredible cast directed by the legend Phyllida Lloyd is hard to beat. But performing COCK while my daughter was still very young, breastfeeding her at the half then putting her to bed in a cot in my dressing room before going onstage is a personal favourite. I felt like the luckiest person in the world in those moments.
If you could choose a selection of desert island poetry anthologies what would they be?
Sabrina Mahfouz Plays One collection. Strictly they are plays but it’s all poetry to me. Anything from Inua Ellams and Yomi Sode. I love what Little Simz is saying so I’d like a book of her lyrics and SANITY’S songs too.
If you were asked to write another play in Soho, where would you reside for some quiet writing? And where would one fuel their breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Probably Soho House Dean Street for some chilled writing upstairs. Breakfast would be Lush Coffee and a ‘de nata’ at Watchhouse, Seven Dials. Lunch at Joyce’s Jerk Joint for sure. For dinner maybe Mildreds, I’m not vegan but I’m a big fan of their food and vibe.
What three plays in London, in advance of Christmas, would you recommend to someone visiting to book and why?
Harriet Walter in The House of Bernarda Alba at the National Theatre – I saw that play at drama school loved it and with Harriet leading it’s going to be sick! My Neighbour Totoro is coming back to the Barbican. And Meetings at the Orange Tree Theatre. It’s by Trinidadian playwright Mustapha Matura and stars the always brilliant Martina Laird.