Thursday, March 18, 2021

Seun Shote

 

Seun Shote as Ato in THE DILEMMA OF A GHOST, with Shonel Jackson

Everyone involved with Border Crossings will be deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Seun Shote, at the age of only 47.  There is a very full and warm obituary in The Guardian, so this blog post is specifically about the time he worked with us, playing the leading role of Ato in our production of The Dilemma of a Ghost by Ama Ata Aidoo, back in 2007. Seun was at the centre of a rich and challenging casting mix, with four performers from the National Theatre of Ghana, and two young Black British women straight out of drama school.  This meant he was the most experienced cast member with regard to UK theatre, and it was very beautiful to see how carefully and tactfully he took on a mentoring role towards Shonel Jackson and Anniwaa Buachie, without ever assuming any higher status. At the same time, he offered a cultural bridge for the Ghanaian performers, making their first foray into Europe: as a British man with Nigerian heritage, he was deeply sensitive to their West African culture and expectations. He made my job as director a whole lot easier.  

Seun's warmth and good humour made the tour of that production the most joyful and carefree I can remember. Touring is exhausting, potentially stressful and often challenging - you need a cast who understand how to look after one another, and Seun did that in spades.  

His performance as Ato drew off his understanding of African and Western cultures with great sensitivity. Ato is the "One Scholar" who has returned to Ghana after studying in the States, carrying the hopes and expectations of his family. Watching him negotiate the complexities of that dilemma was an object lesson in the complex performance of the globalised moment. He was also incredibly funny - the great scene in which Ato breaks to his family the news that he has married an American woman was guaranteed to set the audience roaring with laughter, as Seun sat with a huge forced grin on his face in response to the demonstrative expressions of horror erupting all around him.

He was a fine actor and a precious soul, whose unexpected death at such a young age is a cause for great sorrow. With the ancestors.  

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A donations page has been set up in Seun's memory, as he leaves a young family.  

2 comments:

Kate Stafford said...

A wonderful tribute, Michael. I am still reeling from this terrible news. I first met Seun in the nineties when we were both members of IML, a co-op agency. He was at the start of his career, and an incredibly supportive and able company member. Since then our paths crossed many times - he was the lead in my friend Smith Likongwe's play at the Traverse in Edinburgh, he toured with my company during Afrovibes, performing the lead in a Mike van Graan rehearsed reading. I saw him in Death and the King's Horseman at the National (playing in whiteface!) and he joined Bilimankhwe as an Associate for several years. Did he come to Border Crossings through my recommendation, or was that another co-incidence? I can't remember now. Such a great person to have in the rehearsal room - intellectually incredibly sharp, morally courageous and a talented actor. I am so so sad that he has gone, way too soon. I was looking forward to working with him again one day.

Michael Walling said...

It was indeed your recommendation, Kate.