Isabel Adomakoh Young is an actor, writer and a creative multi-hyphenate that has many strings to her bow. With everything from producing festivals, writing plays, books and articles and even performing as a Drag King, there isn’t much Isabel hasn’t already achieved. I spoke to her about her latest venture in pursuing a career in acting as she has just been cast in the Swan season in both The Provoked Wife and Venice Preserved at the RSC.
Having performed since she was little, Isabel did a bit of theatre whilst studying at Cambridge University. “I did about six shows whilst I was there and co-wrote one,” she said. “I was at Cambridge and people were very serious about becoming actors, I wasn’t quite one of those but I really enjoyed it. I started doing drag performance but it wasn’t until I came out of university that I realised it was what I wanted to do.”
Isabel graduated and started a career in publishing for a literary agency. “It just suddenly dawned on me that because things were going well, it might end up being my career for life,” she explained. “I was really enjoying it, I loved it, but I just thought I couldn’t let acting go. I couldn’t get to say forty and have never given it a try.” She then left the agency and said goodbye to her rather startled boss and decided to just go for it.
After applying for and then doing the National Youth Theatre Rep course she got herself an agent and one of her first auditions was for the RSC. “It is unbelievable, I remember leaving my job in publishing and thinking about what I was hoping for and how I’d quantify progress in this acting career successfully apart from fame, which I don’t see as a qualifier,” she said.
“I remember I said to myself at the time, ‘I’d love for one day to get to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, that is something that would mean the world to me and it would show that I’ve really honed my craft.’ So imagine my surprise when three weeks after finishing NYT Rep I get a job with the RSC.
“It was literally unimaginable. But it has been so wonderful, a little daunting but where better to hone your skills than with one of the most well-known theatre companies in the world.”
Both plays in the RSC Swan Season are hugely contrasting and taking on two completely different roles is bound to be a challenging yet enriching experience. Philip Breen’s The Provoked Wife is a comedy about a couple called the Brutes. “Lady Brute is ill-treated by her drunk husband who absolutely despises her. She is extremely wealthy and lives in this totally fabricated world where everyone is in love with her,” Isabel explained. She plays Cornet, her servant who is part of that world, says the wrong thing and gets into a lot of trouble for it.
Whereas Venice Preserved is a restoration political thriller and Isabel takes on the role of Spinosa. “She is very trained, extremely bloodthirsty and always the first to kick off when there is drama,” Isabel said. “They’re pretty different roles but it is so lovely to have that breadth as an actor. Cornet is a comedy character whereas Spinosa is very serious and quite scary.”
As a passionate feminist, Isabel is really excited to be working at the RSC during such a huge time of change. “I am especially enthused by Erica Whyman at the RSC who is doing so much work for accessibility,” Isabel said. “She is at the forefront of creating different types of performance environment and it’s so important for everybody to be able to feel welcomed in the theatre and enjoy the art form.”
With both shows, I asked Isabel what she wants the audience to leave thinking and feeling after watching them, “I would love for audiences for both shows to leave feeling that restoration literature and theatre is for them. It is a style of theatre that can be just as refreshing as a play from today,” Isabel said. “But I also want them to leave realising that it takes all types of bodies to tell a story and these plays are for them and by them.”
Photo credit // Helen Maybanks and Pete Le May