Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Performance and Cultural Industries

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Ekow Quartey

EQ200pixCourse: BA Theatre and Performance

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born in London to Ghanaian parents. I kind of broke the script profession-wise; my mum and dad are in healthcare and retail respectively, my sister is in law and my half-­brother owns a bar in Ghana.

What did you enjoy the most about your time at Leeds?

The degree, like any other degree, has modules you really buy into and fall for, and for me that was physical theatre. It’s also a degree that gives you an insight into many aspects of the theatre industry, be it practitioners, history or business.

Furthermore, the degree focuses nearly across the board on the idea of group and collective, with many modules awarding group marks. In this day and age, where more people are creating their own theatre companies straight out of university, it’s a lesson you should pay attention to.

While I was at Leeds, one of the roles I played was Pylades in Euripides’ Orestes. I’ve always enjoyed the Greeks – I mean Troy is a great film – but this gave me a real insight and really deepened my love for these texts. Playing Pylades really helped with beginning to know how to adapt a historical character into a modern world, which was invaluable when doing Anya Reiss’ modern adaptation of Franz Wedekind’s Spring Awakening.

What are some of your career highlights since you graduated?

I was extremely lucky to be nominated for an Ian Charleson Award for my portrayal of Hans in Anya Reiss’ adaptation of Spring Awakening. These are theatrical awards that reward the best classical stage performances in Britain by actors under the age of 30. They are named in memory of the renowned British actor Ian Charleson, and are run by the Sunday Times newspaper and the National Theatre.

I’ve been part of several UK tours, including with Headlong. When you’re touring you’re moving to a new city every week, organising somewhere to stay, away from home comforts for months at a time and adjusting to new theatres. But you’re also getting to see more of the world, learning new stage craft on differently configured regional theatres and playing to a completely new audience nearly every week.

Working on Richard II at the Globe, directed by Simon Godwin, was such a pleasure as it meant being part of an extremely talented, confident and playful cast. The Globe is like nothing I had ever experienced before; the audience are so visible and so involved you can’t hide from them. You have a relationship with the audience that you can only get in an open air theatre – I think it’s what a lot of actors live for.

These experiences taught me that no one theatre, no one audience is the same. They didn’t see the really good performance you did on press night, all they know is the story you have shared with them that night, therefore enjoy it and that hopefully means they will too. I count myself lucky that I get to do a job I love, so really my hope is that I keep working and that continues.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of studying your course?

Test yourself, pick the electives and modules you want to do, be part of as many societies and sports as possible and mostly do everything you can to enjoy your time at university.

Since graduating, Ekow’s professional acting career has gone from strength to strength. He has undertaken several UK tours with innovative touring company Headlong, and performed in productions at the National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, and the Beijing Cultural Olympiad. His film and television work is also varied, and includes the Globe’s ambitious film series The Complete Walk and upcoming independent film Self-Help: A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life.

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