Meet the community cast of Princess & The Hustler

20 Feb 2019

Meet Liz Cashdan, Oona Chanfi and Rupert Hopkins, three of our wonderful Community Cast members of Princess & The Hustler, our current co-production with Eclipse Theatre. We caught up with them to find out more about their background and why they decided to join the cast! 

1. What made you want to become involved in Princess & The Hustler?

Rupert: I became involved in Princess & The Hustler as a response to the newspaper article in the Bristol Post. Becoming involved in the theatre production appealed to me as I have knowledge of the Bristol Bus Boycott.

Liz: I love theatre and what it can do to bring alive issues in society. I remember the Bristol Bus Boycott, I lived in Manchester at the time and taught in Birley High School in Moss Side, where over half the pupils were of Afro-Caribbean descent. I am the same age as Roy Hackett so I feel a kind of link to his experiences in Bristol.

Oona: I initially wanted to get involved because I had heard about Eclipse Theatre and thought it was amazing that a theatre company for people from the BME community existed. Celebrating all different types of black women and their beauty is so important, because as a group we are underrepresented, especially darker skinned women due to the colourism in the media. The show tackles these taboo issues whilst also reminding black women and men of their power and beauty. The Bristol Bus Boycott was also a monumental part of history which people do not know nearly enough about it, inside and outside of Bristol, due to it not really being taught in schools. As a young person I think it is so important to educate the younger generation on this movement. Princess & The Hustler is a great way to do so!

2. Do you have any previous experience in theatre?

Liz: I've produced lots of plays in secondary schools and done quite a bit of acting recently. I belong to the Bristol Old Vic adult group.

Rupert: I was the producer of Amiri Baraka's play 'Slave Ship' at Circomedia in 2007 for Abolition 200. I also performed Bath busses with a group of poets for the Bath Literary Festival.

Oona: I study A level theatre studies and have been a part of some performances, but nothing as big as the Weston Studio. I am involved in the Young Producers scheme with Tobacco Factory Theatres.

3. How has the process been?

Oona: I have loved it. It has been so easy to connect and talk to everyone. Meeting the director and choreographer was great as we got to understand the vision for the show itself and the part we played. Being a part of the black women’s beauty pageant section meant I felt empowered by the women around me whilst rehearsing and during the performance as we were all cheering each other on. It just felt like such a community.

4. What does community mean to you?

Rupert: It’s difficult to answer; community is made up of a group of individuals with a wide range of opinions and experience and diversity.

Oona: To me, community is a group of people who love and care for each other, yet are not ignorant about their differences. A community wants to accept and learn about everyone’s experiences and empower everyone. However, it is also about finding those similarities and being able to understand each other and enjoy each other’s company.

5. What does beauty mean to you?

Liz: I want Princess to see herself as beautiful through her intelligence, not through her looks.

Rupert: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but starts with working on one's inner self. But beauty is also about the environment one is in and it is important to make steps to make sure it is ecologically sound.

Oona: In the society we live in, there is such a focus and judgement on appearance. Beauty means learning every day to be comfortable and love yourself and this really does come across in the play, as we need to remember it is a journey. Beauty also means empowering those around you. The lack of representation and portrayal of black women means it is even harder to see the beauty in ourselves. But with shows like this, it makes the process just that bit easier.

6. Why should people come and see Princess & The Hustler?

Liz: People need to come and see Princess & The Hustler because it is a part of all of our histories, whatever section/race/gender/class we belong to. And it's good theatre. And I'm in it! 

Oona: To see a play which can spark conversation and education around the topic of the Civil Rights movement in the UK, specifically the Bristol Bus Boycott. To remember those who have come before us, who have had to fight for our right to be here and be seen as equal, although this fight is still far from over. This show is for everyone and I think education is the key. For people from the BME community, this show will give them a sense of empowerment and make their voices feel heard. For BME women, this story of Princess and her struggle to love herself in a world with little to no representation of people like her will resonate with them, yet celebrate their diverse range of beauty.

Rupert: People should come and see Princess & The Hustler because it is a story based around the Black experience of living in the UK and also takes in the story of the Bristol Bus Boycott.

Princess & The Hustler is on until Sat 23 Feb,  before heading on a UK-wide tour! You can grab your tickets here: