Flashpoint’s fierce female cop, “Leah Kerns”, will trade in her sleek dark, swat gears and badge this week when she debuts as Shakespeare’s Lady MacBeth for a modern portrayal of the classic tragedy, MacBeth.
The Canadian TV series actress, who’s of Nigerian Jamaican parentage, said theatre goers will be thrilled with the “new” MacBeth which will be showcasing at the Sterling Theatre in Toronto between Saturday, December 7 and Saturday, December 20.
“What’s great about this production of MacBeth is that it has a modern twist. The upcoming play will allow members of the audience to be a fly on the wall while the plot unravels. Audiences will also appreciate that the text is modernized and not recited. It’s ‘easy speak’ with normal conversations,” said Olunike Adeliyi.
“There are also lots of surprises. What will further [pique the audience’s interest] is the play’s collaboration with Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. The plot itself is changed up a bit. For example, ladies are going to be playing traditionally male roles and the play will feature its first Jamaican-Nigerian Lady MacBeth. It’s also going to be a night of fun and interaction with the audience. Audience members will be able to participate by wearing some of the masks worn by our characters and I also get to do some of my African dancing,” says Adeliyi.
The play’s producers were convinced that Adeliyi would be perfect for the role and finally casted her as the fiendishly ambitious but admittedly relatable lead female character.
“They approached me last April but I was not available because I was doing other productions. Then they approached me again in August. I took up the offer because I’ve wanted to expand my craft. I’ve never done Shakespeare before. Macbeth is one of the best Shakespearean plays out there. I could totally relate to Lady MacBeth. Here’s a woman who wanted her husband to do well and would go to any lengths to ensure his success,” Adeliyi told Kim Lowe of The Caribbean Current.
“What’s challenging and beautiful about Shakespeare is its literature and understanding it. It’s saying the words and honouring the words. [But the language of Shakespeare’s not entirely strange] I’m familiar with it from school days,” noted 37 year old Adeliyi.
“In preparing I sought out every Shakespearean play and collections I could get my hands on and attached myself to different communities of actors who’ve performed Shakespeare before. I substitute it with my own understanding of it and bring my life to the text,” she further noted.
The play directed by accomplished British director and thespian, Sophie Ann Rooney, will feature several cast members. “It’s been wonderful working on the set of MacBeth,” explained Adeliyi. “We have a talented cast and quite a few have done Shakespeare before so they’ve upped the ante. We’re definitely having a lot of fun. We play theatre games during rehearsals and understand each other’s abilities and work flow.”
“Also, our director is a genius! She’s very much an actor’s director and a thespian herself. She’s from London, England and brings a lot of theatre. For example, she understands and helps us to emotionally connect with the text. She provides notes that are fantastic and is aware that we are all just students of acting,” Adeliyi proudly stated.
Adeliyi’s cultural background has been very influential in her work and helps her to connect emotionally with her characters.
“My cultural heritage impacts my acting a lot. I always lead with it-it’s that element in my work and craft that I draw on when I’m going into character. I’m proud of the stock I come from. My parents instilled good values and goals in me and have always been supportive. It’s important to bring culture in your craft. Who you are, your character is. Otherwise you’d be leaving out a huge part of acting. We’re not that different as humans and I’ve found that a lot of the issues of the past are issues we’re facing now,” she said.
Adeliyi’s strikingly beautiful coffee toned hue, chiseled facial features, and superb acting skills set her apart as a talent to be reckoned with. Her first acting gig was Oliver Twist’s Artful Dodger while only in middle school in Brampton. Since then she has landed major roles in theatre and film and was nominated for “Best Performance by a Female – Film” at the 2012 Canadian Comedy Awards for her performance in “French Immersion” while later copping the 2014 Canadian Black Awards for best actress.
Her most recent film and television appearances include SAW 3D (2010), the highly anticipated comedy “French Immersion”, “Who is Simon Miller,” which aired on NBC, “The Listener” on CTV/NBC, “Combat Hospital” on Global, the Syfy original series “Being Human”, “Cracked” on CBC, “Remedy” on Global, “Republic of Doyle” on CBC, the Lifetime television film “Her Husband’s Betrayal”, “Saving Hope” on CTV, in the upcoming thrillers, “Three Days in Havana”, “The Returned” and the romantic comedy “30th Birthday”
Adeliyi has also studied extensively in some of the best acting institutions in Canada and the United States. Among the actress’ alma maters are the Canadian Academy of Method Acting, Professional Actors Lab (working with renowned Canadian artistic director, David Rotenberg), Lonsdale Smith Studio (Toronto and LA) and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.
“[I fell in love with acting when] I did background for film and television. I used to watch actors all the time and I was lucky to meet Denzel Washington who encouraged me to apply to different schools and continue my training,” explained the nominated actress.
Who I am today is different from who I was several years ago,”said Adeliyi when describing her journey in the industry.
“My growth happens every day. I’ve learnt a lot since my days of Oliver Twist. I’m always looking for different styles — I’m not married to any one technique. My acting is always expanding.
“I’m forever learning. People like Meryl Streep, Viola Davis and Denzel Washington have been very influential to me. Acting is the study of human behavior being recognized. Everything about growing in the industry is understanding humanity,” explained Adeliyi who was by now wading through traffic to her final rehearsal before MacBeth’s Theatre opening.
She admitted that her friends and family help to keep her grounded and focused professionally; among them her 18 year old daughter, Alesha, who’s now majoring in architecture in university. “I have friends for over 25 years, most of whom are very supportive and call me Wendy,” said the actress.
When asked what her fans would be surprised to know about her Adeliyi admitted, “I have a fetish for [men with] crazy hair and beards. I find it very sexy.”
Her next project will be another theatre production set to launch between January 15 and February 1, 2015. “On Monday I start preparing for a new play that will be at the Nightwood Theatre. It’s called ‘Her2’ and it focuses on breast cancer in women. It’s an all female production and highlights the struggles that women go through when dealing and coping with the disease,” revealed Adeliyi.
By: Kim Lowe
Meanwhile, fans wanting to see Adeliyi can purchase tickets for MacBeth online at sterlingstudiotheatre.com for $15 to $20.