Actor Tsungirai Wachenuka discusses character, costume and space during rehearsals for SLAP. BANG. KISS.
What is SLAP. BANG. KISS. about, in your own words?
For me this play is about defining moments in life. A moment in life that changes you. A moment you didn’t see coming and you discover who you really are. Discovering who you are when you are faced with adversity. It’s about how three teenagers bring hope and change to their communities.
Tell us about your central character in a nutshell. What drives them?
My character is driven by connection to her community. Her connection to her family and her home. She has clear role models in her life and her grandmother was her anchor. She feels the pain in the community and she carries it with her everywhere she goes. She’s very in touch with the world around her and is willing to fight for her people. She is only just beginning to step into her power and realise her impact.
How do you embody your central character?
The key to exploring my character has been through vulnerability. Allowing myself to see what comes out in the moment and focusing on the intention. Defining who the audience are to me so that I create that relationship where I can open up. Immi is guarded and the audience are let into her world so they get to see what is lying beneath the fire and anger. Exploring breath has helped me a lot when exploring heavy and emotionally charged moments. It’s been interesting to see how my body reacts physically to the way I breathe as Immi within the scenes. I have to calm my breath back down to be ready to step into my next character's shoes.
Sarah Fitzgerald, Tsungirai Wachenuka and Conor Leach. Photo: Tiffany Garvie
How do you transform into other characters, or to other places? Could you give one example?
This has been fun and challenging to explore. I have noticed that the youngest characters I play are more grounded in the way that they stand and command a space whereas the older characters I play are more reserved. Voice has also been a key shift in tapping into the energy of each character. This has been one of my favourite parts because voice work is one of my passions. I love to play in different ranges and deep voices are my favourite. I have been relishing in all the characters that require bass! It has also been helpful to notice what my body does naturally when I step into a different character and building on top of that to differentiate between them. Some of my characters fidget with their hands when they are anxious whereas Immi stands strong, fists clenched and the anxiety is internal.
How do design elements like costumes, props and the set impact your performance? What helps and how?
Costume has been a great help with snapping into character. Before I started wearing my costume, I started wearing clothes that felt like my character because my own style was too different from the world I was diving into. It has also helped with stepping out of character too because I am tapping into such heavy emotions. Even though I like to look at Immi as an extension of me, it is really great to find where I begin and Immi ends to help with the cool down process at the end of the day.
How have you been exploring space in rehearsal?
This is an interesting question for this play. While exploring different relationships in each scene, we have used space to help clarify the different dynamics between the characters. It’s been fun using space to show intimacy. Whether a character is invading space or is being invited into a space. The physical distance left between each character can speak volumes before we even open our mouths. The space between the characters affects how we use our voices and bodies in the scene. We also explore space between our three worlds and have been selective about when those worlds meet. When we choose to stand together and when we are in our own islands.