Theatre Interview: Chris Djuma – Kings Of The World, Or Conversations With Character

January 24, 2020

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Chris Djuma stars in The Kings of the World, William Harding’s directorial debut, at the Market Theatre.
Live performance is both one of the main drawcards of being a performer and one of the most stressful parts of it. At one point in the process of being involved in a new project do you cross that line?
With this being my professional debut after graduating from the Market Theatre Laboratory, where I performed in the context of being a student, I am really grateful to be able to perform. I have to really tell myself to play and have fun, which makes it less stressful and allows me to breathe and relax while performing and to be in a better position to allow the audience into my world.
How do you choose projects? What needs to turn you on before you audition for something? What are the hooks in a script that you like to hang a performance or the generation of a character on? Depth, dialogue, nuance, reality versus fantasy – what speaks most profoundly to you?
This is quite complex. As an artist, I have learned that there is so much you learn through collaboration with people who may not have the same skill set you may have. So I have my dream list of actors, directors and writers that I would love to work and collaborate with because I am curious about their process and an admirer of their craft. William Harding is one of these. Secondly, there’s the script or the subject matter being explored, if we are devising. Does the character start a conversation within me? Does it scare me in a good way to say “jump!”? Being a lover of absurd theatre, if the script allows my mind to dream and play, and if the writing is well nuanced and the characters complex, I’ll rush to sign up and audition.
The lifestyle of a working actor is a difficult one to square with family life, or a day job, or half a dozen other aspects of a traditional routine. How do you make it work?
This is still a work in progress for me. I am figuring out how to make it work. My family and friends understand my world a bit better now. With a lot of things still being new beyond the rehearsal room for me, and with my desire to consume understand and discover all at once, I find that I get lost in my own world. However, I have learned to make the time and find a way to let them in my process so they are not alienated. That does mean they get a lot of spoilers or I find myself, in my free time, with a jam-packed catch-up week on my side, but I am really grateful for WhatsApp calls and voice notes that make it easier, as I can be a professional “blue ticker” at times.
As a performer, you’re often asked to deliver on a set of expectations – the playwright’s; the director’s; the rest of the casts’; the audiences’… What sort of input do you prefer to (demand to?) have as an actor? 
As an actor, input on the writing is helpful, as that is the guide to the character, and it will help play it truthfully for myself and give to my cast members and deliver on the director’s expectations. I also have to deliver on my own expectation of what I intended versus what I am doing with the role.
What other roles do you, or would you like to, play in the industry – now or in the future? Writing, production, direction? And what about each or any of those excites you?
Currently, I am working on a writing project that explores, language and identity with third-culture kids under the mentorship of Mwenya Kabwe. In the future, I want to continue to direct by myself and with my close collaborator Dintshitile Mashile. I want to play roles that explore; that we don’t see often on stage and which allow me to stretch and grow on my journey as an actor.
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