Jude played Cinna The Poet in Julius Caesar with the Royal Shakespeare and toured nationally, as well as being broadcast on BBC Four as part of the BBC’s Shakespeare season.
Jude also starred in I, Cinna (the Poet), an exploration of the events in Julius Ceasar through the eyes of the unfortunate poet. Written and directed by Tim Crouch, the live performance was streamed directly in up to 3,000 schools across the country.
A Tale of Two Cities (Reagents Park Theatre)
Jeramee Hartleby and Ooglemore (Unicorn Theatre)
Romeo And Juliet (TNT Theatre International Tour)
Soho Young Playwright Company ‘various Roles’
Othello (Malachite Theatre Company)
Julius Caesar (RSC Stratford, West End And Tour)
Comedy Of Errors (National Theatre)
Jude can next been seen at The Bristol Old Vic in their production of The Cherry Orchard.
Sam Carrack: Jude, thank you for chatting with us.
Jude Owusu: No problem.
James Barbour: So we are exploring the theme of forgiveness for our first season. As we’ve come to realise, it’s a massive thing!
JO: Do you think forgiveness is given or taken? There’s a saying, I can’t remember where I saw it, but 99% of the time it rings true to me. It says that offence can only be taken, and from that premise, I thought maybe forgiveness can only be given.
SC: I guess I like to look at forgiveness, and I don’t understand it all, but I like to look at forgiveness as a positive act, the act of giving as a positive.
SC: Is it weird linking forgiveness to art?
JO: I think ultimately its about telling stories, how well can you tell the story?
JB: Yeah, and how those stories reflect the wider society?
JO:I was thinking about that, you could say that society is all about little bits of forgiveness each day. We all do little bits of forgiveness. It might be worth thinking about scales of forgiveness. For example if you came in here and I asked you to take of your shoes, and you didn’t want to do that, well ok, cool, come in anyway, that’s a little act of forgiveness right there.
JB: Like when you bump into people on the underground or wherever, or them into you you.?
JO: ha ha, yeah but isn’t annoying when that does happen and they don’t say sorry?
SC: you still have a choice to make there though, whether you let it go…
JO: or carry it around with you all day, not deal with it.
SC: but certainly those moments show quite clearly how capable we are of the act.
JO: To err is human , to forgive is divine
JB: Yes! On that, it’s an interesting one, the forgiveness Project is a, now let me get this right, secular organization. Does it have those religious connotations for you?
JO:For me, when I think of that, its appealing to the higher form of me, the more king, the more empathetic, the more reasonable part of me, rather than just the divinity and the clouds and Gods thing.
SC: You played Cinna the Poet in the RSC production of Julius Caesar. Cinna gets beaten to death. Cinna finds a way to forgive his aggressors?
JO: Would he still feel forgiveness knowing that those perpetrators will do it again? To accept his forgiveness is also to accept their own wrongdoing, and that requires then…change.
JB: That’s true, when the forgiveness is a spoken thing, ‘I forgive you for what you did”, but forgiveness could also exist in ones own self, in the sense that you say to yourself, ‘I need to let that go’.
SC: By committing an act of murder, the perpetrators can’t sit in the we’re good people park. But what they….
JB: Ha ha, I want to go to that park.
JO: just like loads of people in the park going ‘We’re good, we’re the good ones!’
SC:’Look at us and all the good slides’
JO: ha ha!
SC: But what they thought they were doing was revenge, getting rid of a conspirator, who helped the downfall of ‘their’ Caesar. I mean I don’t know if Cinna the Poet can have that mindset?
JO: I’d like to think that, He’s a man of words, a poet, so I think, more so than any character in Julius Caesar, he has the propensity to understand such a thing.
SC: The sad thing about that scene, or the things that changes the rules slightly for me is that I can understand why these people would lynch Cinna, but he explains that he’s not the Cinna they are looking for, but they still kill him anyway…
JO: For his bad verses… Yeah, I agree, but..If you imagine there is a pyramid, and at the bottom you’ve got the proletariat, the everyday person, they’ve just seen their head of states, their most powerful people murder their Caesar. It’s almost like a trickle down effect, if that single act can happen, then it’s almost like anything else can go.
SC: During the perfomance of Julius Caesar, your character gets killed and then dragged of stage, is it weird seeing the other actors after that? Seeing them as people who have just killed you?
JO: As an actor, its fine, I think it has to be like that. When you go through the rehearsal process, those are the times where, say you’ve just been killed, you don’t want to be bouncing around enjoying yourself, because, you know, imaginatively, you’ve just gone to a place where you’ve been killed. But through rehearsal you get used to it, and it goes back to that thing of telling the story. Now that particularly bit of the story has been told, and my mind is onto the next bit.
JB: And the next bit was I, Cinna, just tell us a little about that, and what it was part of?
JO: Yeah, Tim took a collection of very small parts from Shakespeare plays an then tell the story of the play through the eyes of that character and it just gives a completely new viewpoint. It feels like Shakespeare is the play, then Tim Crouch’s take was the q&a, because everything that happens in I Cinna, happens in Julius Caesar, we just see it from his persepective.
SC: In I, Cinna, does your character get a chance to speak about his death?
JO: Yeah, he speaks as his ghost for about another twenty minutes. That whole section is him trying to get the audience trying to talk about what things they would kill for, what things they would die for, the power of language, the power of words of action. That would lead me to believe that such a simple word as forgiveness would mean a lot to him. On I Cinna actually, while we were doing it, myself and Tim Crouch were having a discussion and he said that theatre is the greatest form of democracy and I din’t understand it at the time. I was like, no man, the audience are paying to come and sit down and watch. He made the point that, no, there is democracy there, they are giving you the power to speak, they can walk out at anytime, they can shout, they can stop it, they can do whatever they want, but they have chosen to be there and listen.
JB: We’ve looked at justifying bad actions by other characters. On the flip side can you justify playing those characters or someone like Iago, or another equally dark or bad character without sending them up as a pantomime villain?
JO: Oh, I think it can be easily done. I listened to this Yale professor, and he gave this analogy. He said, imagine you are driving a truck , travelling at x amount of mph, but fast. All of a sudden you lose control of the brakes, all you’ve got is the steering wheel, and now have to make a split second decision. You either go straight on and hit five teenagers, who are just hanging out, or you steer into an old lady, and that’s your choice, you have to make it. Most people would say they’d steer into the old lady right? Then the professor substitutes the truck for something else, let’s say multiculturalism right? Or something else that’s forbade in that society? You have the opportunity to steer it one direction or the other. Once you break it down like that, it’s doesn’t even become about forgiveness, it becomes about right, or what you think is right. Then you can start to see how each character would choose which way to steer in each moment.
JB What role do you think art, or theatre can play in forgiveness?
JO: I think I'd probably say it’s close to taking a picture. I feel like art can capture a snapshot, but in theatre its not a physical snapshot, it’s a feeling, it can capture a feeling. It can allow you to revisit those feeling as you would a picture, but it can offer an elusiveness or imaginative difference, when you revisit it, it will always be a different shape, the message might still be the same, but the margins and the frame are looser, and that’s really rich. Its like you’re having a new conversation every time or revisiting it form a new viewpoint every time rather than just looking at that same image. I think its that opportunity to see things from new angles as perceptions grow. Mohammed Ali said, ‘if you have the same thought at 50 that you did at 30, then you’ve wasted 20 years.’
SC: Well hopefully we won’t fall into that trap! Thank you Jude!
JB: Yeah, thank you for you time.
JO: Not a problem, best of luck with everything, it’s very interesting.