Continuing Entertainment South Wales Q&A with Welsh actress, Danielle Fahiya, who stars as the Young Rat in RATS (Rose Against The System) at Wales Millennium Centre next week.
In the first part, Danielle discussed her lead role as a young Butetown Rat who is about to go through her family’s traditional initiation. Her right of passage is to steal something from the humans, that she cannot eat, whatever she finds will become her name. Here, in the second part, Danielle, gives more context to her character and the responsibility her role brings.
Identity is a central theme in the narrative and your character is a young woman struggling with that throughout the play- what pressures can that bring on young people and is identity/purpose in life something that all generations struggle with?
I think that young people today are faced with a level of expectation of what they must achieve as the world is advancing in so many ways the next generation is always spoken of with what they will achieve and that can sometimes bring fear of what a young person is expected to possess skills wise and their talents.
As a young person, myself the only advice I could give would be to say is that everybody is different and there is not one set rule or markers you must hit just because society tells you so. It is much braver to be honest and admit when you are struggling with something and to always ask for help as too many young people are struggling alone.
I think this level of expectation and achievement and a desire to fit in is something that people of all generations face in many ways I.e. work, friendship groups, comparing your life’s successes with another; no matter what our generation that pressure can make us question our identity and purpose in life.
As you are the only female character and lead in this production, what pressures if any, or responsibility does that bring?
I do feel a sense of responsibility being the only female actress in the cast and being the lead, as I am aware as history has proven it is harder as a woman to play a non-stereotypical role like the one I have been given, than playing a certain type cast that can fit a certain ‘female stereotype’ I.e. sexy female love interest, naive young woman, emotional, single and lonely to name but a few.
This role is quite the opposite, it is all about finding inner strength to overcome the discrimination that my character is faced with, she is also not willing to rely on anyone else and blazes her own trail by using her intelligence and not the physical assets of being a female. In terms of pressure, I think with every role there is pressure on your performance and showing the truth of your character but this is special to me as I want the women in the audience to connect to the role and feel inspired by my character getting ahead on her own in literally the rat race of her life! Ha!
How much do you think the play is grounded in realism?
Of course, looking at the title and brief description without knowing the context of the piece it is a stretch of the imagination having rats talking and behaving like humans. However, if we look at the rats being a representation of an underdog in society then rats can be an appropriate choice of mammal; intelligent yet looked down upon because of what they are seen to represent aka disease, damage and contamination. It is a story that is based on a community full of rich heritage and there is lots of that discussed in the show. Kyle Legall creator of RATS did base a lot of the narrative from his childhood and the gentrification he has seen take place over the years.
Finally, what are your ideal type of roles that you would like to play in the future?
I am a huge admirer of late 19th century theatre female roles that grapple with women trying to find their fight and courage to step out of the shadows of a man’s world. As we know, the turn of the 20th century cemented the Suffragette movement and that uprising had been represented on stage in characters such as Strindberg’s ‘Miss Julie’ and Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Garber’ decades before. Garber, recently played at The National Theatre by the magnificent Ruth Wilson is a role I would absolutely love to play. A woman years ahead of her time with a head strong personality that would like to be regarded as her father’s daughter not just her husband’s wife. She is aware of the power of feminine prowess but is clever enough to realize that it takes courage as well as her intelligence that stands the best chance of her getting ahead in life. This type of character along with Miss Julie, knowing their potential and reaching for their ambition are characters that I admire and would relish the opportunity to play.
In terms of television, Gillian Anderson’s character in The Fall– a character who be cold, not emotional, tough and determined is a character very different from me and a character that is rare to see a female play, is to be admired and thanks given to the screenwriters willing to take a risk with a female character and it is paying off. Also, Daenerys Targareyn, a Game of Thrones character who can reign as a queen without a king by her side, is something we don’t often see depicted on screen and is to be celebrated as a female role.
RATS (Rose Against The System) is a Kyle Alonzo Legall creation, supported by the Arts Council of Wales and the Wales Millennium Centre. It runs at the Wales Millennium Centre from June 2-3 at 8pm on both evenings and a matinee performance on June 3, at 1.30pm.