Angie Le Mar is one of the UK’s best known comedians. An actress, writer, producer, radio and TV personality and social commentator, she has had audiences spellbound with productions like The Brothers, Forty and Do You Know Where Your daughter is? Le Mar made history when The Brothers became Hackney Empire’s most sold out show in 10 years. After 25 years in the industry, Le Mar returns with her one-woman show, In My Shoes, which sees her performing as six dissimilar individuals, whose lives are interwoven. DivaScribe caught up with the indomitable Le Mar to find out why the stage is her favourite creative platform. In My Shoes is now running at the Soho Theatre.
DivaScribe: Where does your passion for theatre come from?
Angie Le Mar: I first felt this is what I want to do at the age of nine. My teacher Mr Woodgate let me join the local school drama group. Once I stepped on stage, I knew I wanted to do this.
DivaScribe: What’s the inspiration behind your forthcoming one-woman-show, In My Shoes?
Angie Le Mar: I felt it was time to step up into the unknown. I’ve always wanted to do a one women show (but not stand up character driven) for years. I had so many things to do, and after celebrating 25 years (last year), I felt it was time. I also felt I had something else to say through the shoes of my wonderful characters.
DivaScribe: You have described In My Shoes as a personal milestone, why?
Angie Le Mar: I feel more ready than ever now, it’s personal, because I know the level I would have to go, and I had to face a lot of my fears. It’s a lot deeper than stand up, this calls upon my acting ability, which is why I wanted Femi Elufowojo, jr to direct me, he is relentless. I need that.
DivaScribe: You have been open about your challenge with reading text as a result of dyslexia. I am sure anyone who understands how challenging that can be, wonders how you manage to keep coming up with great scripts that makes audiences talk, laugh and cry. How do you overcome such a challenge and what do you focus on as a creative soul to deliver your best work?
Angie Le Mar: I feel being dyslexic is my gift. It allowed me to think quicker and express myself quickly. If I didn’t I would become frustrated, and this played out at school as being very disruptive. I also felt stupid when I compared myself to others. But when I was solo, I was ok. This is maybe why stand up was perfect for me because I could think and just get on with my thoughts. Writing was the test. I write what moves me. When I wrote Funny Black Women on the Edge, I watched the audience laugh, and that confirmed to me that I can do this.
DivaScribe: In time past, you have talked about the importance of gaining the right skills in one’s chosen field, elaborate on what your journey has entailed and the ways, your work over the years has shaped you and the decision making process?
Angie Le Mar: I feel it’s important to know your skills. It’s not good enough to have a natural talent if you don’t know how to use it to its best potential. In any industry, you must keep topping up, or you are going to be left behind. If you can’t speak the language, people will talk around you, and when you look around… you’re out! They have moved on.
Divascribe: You work in theatre, you do TV work and radio and also run a production company, called, Straight to the Audience. What compelled you to take such a huge gamble and how do you manage these three stands of creativity, stay focused and keep creating shows that audiences what to see?
Angie Le Mar: I believe you trust yourself. As I mentioned earlier, you have to watch the market, how long can you do what you do for? Are you training to be able to switch at a drop of a hat, or are you waiting until you are asked to leave before you think about your next move. My rejection meant I had to do it, and it paid off because I created what I wanted to see. Whatever is missing for you is a business idea waiting to be created.
DivaScribe: Of the various platforms you work on and explore different subjects, which one is your favourite for getting your message out there?
Angie Le Mar: Performing live because you know instantly if it worked.
DivaScribe: What is it about the Angie Le Mar brand that keeps pulling audiences to the various productions you have given us over the years?
Angie Le Mar: I believe my audience know I love what I do, I don’t cut corners, and they have invested in me, and allowed me to grow and make mistakes, so they know they are a part of my journey. Honestly, I have endless conversations with my audience. If they didn’t like something, they have told me, and equally when they have enjoyed it, they made me know. I will always cherish that relationship.
DivaScribe: Relationships feature greatly in your work, especially your theatre productions. Why are you passionate about exploring the theme of relationship and what it is about the characters you create that you want to expose to the world?
Angie Le Mar: I think I’m an old romantic at heart. I think human relationships are the key to our lives, we need so much more understanding and compassion towards each other. I can only do my bit through theatre to get that across. We have such roles to play in each other’s lives.
DivaScribe: And why do you think the stage is one of the best platforms to explore the complexity of relationships?
Angie Le Mar: The audience reaction tells you straight away if more people feel the same way. It also gets you talking together, as opposed to sitting at home with a thought. Although, Tweeting seems to have that role too!
DivaScribe: In your one-woman-show, which starts on October 15, you are playing six different roles, elaborate on what the play is about and the challenges of taking on six different roles?
Angie Le Mar: The saying ‘walk a mile in my shoes’ is where this show/play comes from. I wanted to create characters that we see daily, but we have no understanding of their lives and what someone is going through, and what happens in their day to make them who they are. The most challenging character is playing a 16 year old boy who is trying to make changes in his life. I’m following my 16 -year-old son around the house asking questions, listening to his music, and learning about how trainers are so important – on different levels! Getting the voice, the walk, it really is pushing to the edge!
DivaScribe: You have broken records at the Hackney Empire, Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Harlem Apollo theatre, New York. Some people would stop but not you. How big is your dream, where exploring your creativity is concerned and which other records have you set your sights on?
Angie Le Mar: The dream never stops. Maybe I’ll stop at the Academy Awards! And I’m in development for a sitcom called The Ryan Sisters, I see it as our UK Girlfriends.
DivaScribe: You have been in this industry for years, how would you describe the current positioning of black women in the creative and media landscape, in London and the UK as a whole?
Angie Le Mar: Black women in the UK are doing what our sisters have been doing for years in the states, and that is be in everything, behind the scenes, everywhere! We may not see this portrayed in the media as a whole, but the more we continue to build our own companies, and keep the vision we will be heavyweights in the game. But we must look out for each other, and not try to be the only one at the table, as when the table gets cleared, we have to start all over again.
DivaScribe: You are a writer/director and you have put yourself to both tasks on different productions and directed some. On this occasion, you are being directed, why did you decided to bring someone else in for this purpose and what do you think that adds to the production?
Angie Le Mar: I can let go, and trust a more experienced director, who I’ve admired for years to take me to the next level, which allows me to just focus on script and performance.
DivaScribe: Apart from relationships, what other issues about life, society and the world we live in, would you like to explore next?
Angie Le Mar: I know I will eventually move into changing the world from another angle, it would probably mean going back into social work, which is my background.
DivaScribe: It is black history month, here in the UK. Why is it important that the black community comes out and support the work coming out of the community?
Angie Le Mar: If there is no audience, we get cut first. It’s so important to support. Many have fought the years to share our story. If you don’t go, we are then told there isn’t the audience for this. I tell audience book early, don’t just arrive on the day, it works against the show. The quick sell build demand, creates credibility, encourages extensions, so the next show coming in doesn’t have to convince the theatre all over again!
DivaScribe: What do you want the audience to take away from the night?
Angie Le Mar: I hope they feel the hard work and passion that has gone into creating the show, and walk away in their shoes having enjoyed In My Shoes!
By Belinda Otas