InterviewsNorth WestReview

Fifty Things That Shaped Me with Fisayo Akinade – Contact, Manchester

Reviewer: Jo Beggs

Contact is fifty. That’s fifty years of innovative programming, but also fifty years of supporting young people to grow in confidence through performance skills. New CEO Keisha Thompson was herself, one those who found a group of like-minded people, a creative spark and her own voice at Contact. Fisayo Akinade is another.

Not only that, Fisayo and Keisha grew up together, attending a local church where they met doing plays, and they’ve been good friends ever since. So when Keisha was thinking about a series of in-conversations with Contact alumni, Fisayo was her first choice. He said no.

Anyone who has come across Keisha Thompson knows that she wouldn’t let it go there. “What about” she asked Fisayo, “if I ask you to come up with a list of the fifty things that shaped you and we’ll talk about those?”. So this ninety minutes is not your usual on-stage in-conversation. It’s much more like eavesdropping on a couple of old friends chatting about nothing and everything.

Keisha kicks things off by inviting the audience to write down their own top ten. This is surprisingly difficult, an exercise that makes you really think about what matters. But it also throws up a wide-ranging and almost non-sensical list that ranges from the emotional to the ridiculous, from trips of a lifetime to popular culture, from huge life experiences to the tiniest memorable moments.

Fisayo’s list is much the same, and as Keisha dives into it the conversation goes from the sublime to the silly. There are drama teachers that set him off on a road to his professional career. There are video games. There are films he loves because they have a life affirming message or because Robin Williams does silly voices in them. There are writers, actors and chefs, comics and cartoons and comedians.

Keisha and Fisyao know how to make each other giggle. But Keisha also knows how to pitch a question that will provoke a thoughtful and articulate answer. She’s also devised some unexpected moments of audience participation, giving the evening bit of a game show vibe. Four willing audience members play a game of ‘create a Gladiatorscostume out of tin foil’ (that’s the 1990’s ITV series, not the Roman swordsman) and ‘name that tune played backwards’. There are prizes and much appreciation from the audience.

When Keisha opens up the floor to questions, there’s a lot of love for Fisayo and his work. Most recently, lots of people have seen his wonderful performance in The Crucible at the National Theatre and as an NT Live production in the cinema. There are some great questions that give Fisayo the chance to speak about how he goes about creating a character, how he remains sane and happy in an industry that throws you continuous curve-balls, and how it’s really important to appreciate everything from Shakespeare to The Simpsons. He’s incredibly reflective, warm and rational, a real inspiration to anyone, particularly those young people in the room with aspirations to go into the performing arts.

Fisayo got his way though. Fifty Things That Shaped Me is really not an ‘in-conversation’. It’s just a lovely chat.

Reviewed on 12 February 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

A lovely chat, inspirational

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The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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