ALRA South’s 2014-2017 Three Year Acting BA (HONS) graduate Halema Hussain recently spoke to us about her first professional theatre job since graduating. Halema Hussain is playing two characters in Child of the Divide - a story of family, identity and belonging by Sudha Bhuchar.
We had a chance to catch up with her and find out more about the play. Here's what she told us:
ALRA: Hi Halema, thank you for taking the time to speak to us. With the national tour of Child of the Divide kicking off at The Polka Theatre on 29th September you must be getting ready for the journey. How do you prepare, as an actor, for life on Tour?
Halema Hussain: I’m very excited to kick off my first ever tour! My main preparation is to keep well, looking after my body, listening to it and giving it the right amount of rest. I’m keen to check out other shows at the cities we’re visiting!
I find it inspiring to watch other people act, makes me reflect on my own performance and think of ways of keeping it fresh. I also zhave a list of questions and facts about the characters before the start of the play, it’s handy to revisit them, keeps me in the mind of the play.
ALRA: Tell us about your character/s in the play and what you had to do to understand them?
HH: I play two very different characters: Zainab, a childless, married Muslim woman who adopts a Hindu boy. I looked into my family background to understand Zainab, growing up as a Muslim and having conversations with my Mum on the reasoning behind segregation of genders and social norms that she experienced.
I looked into the loss of children and how that might affect a woman's state of being, which comes into play massively when my character’s husband rescues a Hindu boy who tried to flee from Partition.
Hasina is the second character I play, and she’s a young refugee girl who was left alone by her Uncle at the border, on the way to Pakistan. Her story is intertwined with the other children in the play. Through friendship and the hope for a better future, the children rely on each other to help them survive.
Child of the Divide highlights the horrors children suffered during Partition at the hands of their Elders, and are most often forgotten.
For Hasina, what she goes through is heart-breaking. I researched her background; refugee camps in the newly formed Pakistan in 1947, the conditions of the camps, social care and adoption and being a social pariah.
ALRA: Did you learn anything about your craft while working on this project – as your first professional theatre job since graduating?
HH: Our director, Jim Pope, is really into exploring various acting techniques when approaching characters. Some have been exercises that I learnt at ALRA! Now having graduated, it’s refreshing to go back having grown more as an Actress. The quality of movement training at ALRA has benefitted me so much with Child of the Divide.
I refer back to quite a few exercises as I play two characters of different ages and social status, with quick scene changes! The play jumps in years, adapting a clear-cut physicality has been a challenge, especially with the younger characters, but it's something that’s developed a lot and will continue to grow more as I head into the run of the show.
ALRA: What’s next on the horizon for you?
HH: I’ve just been enlisted in Nastazja Sommer & Barbara Houseman’s new project called: ‘Dangerous Space.’ We’ve got a few workshops that are during ‘Child of the Divide’ tour. We also have 6 Playwrights, working to create stories based around the Actresses involved! Watch this space, very eager to begin!!
ALRA: Our new term has just kicked off at ALRA. Do you remember your first week?
HH: My first week made me feel like I was in year 7 all over again! It was a very exciting time! The catalyst for change and the start of beautiful friendships.
ALRA: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to students just beginning their training?
HH: Don’t make your peers (that end up becoming your absolute besties) your competition. Everyone's journey flows at a different pace, so you should never compare yourself to someone else. You are uniquely you. Celebrate and relish in that.
ALRA: Thank you so much Halema for sharing your story, we wish you all the best for your shows and future career and look forward to seeing what’s next!