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Life as a warrior

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Actor Makesi Algernon’scommercial theatre debut as Alan Strang in the Mervyn de Goeasdirected production of Peter Shaffer’s Equus has drawn critical acclaim. Algernon said the process of building the character was a difficult and scary one, but he was grateful for the opportunity to understand and bring to life such a nuanced and emotionally complex character.

Equus tells the story of a psychiatrist who attempts to treat a young man who blinds six horses because of his pathological religious fascination with them. 

Algernon described Strang as a boy “whose only experience of the real world is a horse ride he had at the age of six, and as he grows up he confuses the passion he felt with his sexuality and loses his mind in the journey. It ends sadly in that Alan is no longer able to be who he is. The play touches a lot on that whole idea of losing self in order for society to accept you and not teaching you properly what it means to grow up.”

Algernon has experienced many tragedies in his 28 years, including the loss of several family members, including his mother, to various illnesses and gun violence, between 2015 and 2017.

He said he was able to access the grief he felt over these events in order to portray the character.

“It was frustrating to let go of the character, because that’s where your true pain sets in and also to remember that this is not you, this is him. It was more or less like doing method and Meisner type work and using what is yours to bring out the character and that’s a very dangerous path to walk on.”

Algernon, also an animator and director, has had a varied career in the Arts and possesses a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts (Theatre Arts) from UTT as well as a Diploma in Digital Media (Animation), as well as working on the TV series In Plain Sight.

He said he lives his life by following suggestions that people make to him, which resulted in his going from Form Six at Woodbrook Secondary School to doing Animation to Theatre to attending several international programmes in the UK and Brazil to Acting to the formation of two animation companies, Coded Arts and ICE Studios.

He said one suggestion which led to a life-changing experience for him came following a talk with 3Canal frontman Wendell Manwarren.

The conversation led to him attending the WYSE International Leadership Programme in Brazil earlier this year. Algernon said his experiences there jolted him out of the depression he had fallen into.

“It armed me enough to continue moving forward with a brighter outlook in life, even after my brother was killed earlier this year. My story is one of survival, that no matter what life throws at you, you have to keep your head above water.

“My family died but not in vain, and I have to find a way to live my life and not accept the pain and still look forward and smile.”

Algernon grew up in Gonzales, Belmont and said he didn’t perceive the area as violent until he moved away. “Children now don’t even realise options outside of war, gang-related violence, they don’t think they have a chance. Being from that area hasn’t stopped me, the grief hasn’t stopped me, nothing is going to stop me sharing what I have with the world. I have to be a culture warrior, I have to be a success story.”

Algernon said his next step in theatre will be to continue acting and move into directing, as he feels more comfortable creating and shaping work on stage.

As an experimental artist by nature, he said he’s fascinated with fusing video games with T&T culture to tell our stories.

“I’m focused on using indie culture games for culture preservation and the art of storytelling. Games are the new media, gaming is the future, but I want to incorporate theatre into that, because theatre is the portrayal of life. We recreate the best and worst parts of life and make it happen on stage. Theatre is life.”

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