LAMDA Exams: Q&A with Trish Cooke

20 April 2023

Trish Cooke is an actress, author and writer of the play Anansi Trades Places – one of the pieces featured in our new Monologues and Duologues for Young Actors anthology. Read more from Trish below on the experience of writing Anansi Trades Places and inspiring advice for LAMDA Exams Learners who are interested in performance.

What was your inspiration for writing Anansi Trades Places? Can you tell us a little about the writing process?

I was commissioned by Talawa Theatre Company to write their Christmas show in 2007. They asked specifically for me to write a play about Anansi, the spider, who is one of the most popular animal tricksters from West African mythology. In my play, Anansi Trades Places, I wanted to bring Anansi into the 21st century and make him relevant for today's audiences, but still keep the traditional elements, i.e. the mischievous and cunning nature of the character. I wanted to make Omari, the protagonist's situation super risky, when he is seduced by Anansi’s charm. Omari makes a choice to go to Anansi’s world, but he does not know the consequences of that choice until it is too late. I was inspired by my two sons and nephews and nieces as I sometimes worry about the choices young people have to make when they are not fully informed of the consequences. I guess I was exploring that when I was writing this play and I think it is still very much relevant today. 

How would you describe the characters of Omari and Anansi?

Omari is innocent but foolish. He has a lot to learn. At the start of the play Omari is upset with his parents and so he is easily seduced and manipulated by Anansi. Anansi is cunning, mischievous, and manipulative. He takes advantage of Omari’s situation (but typically, he gets what he deserves in the end). 

What advice do you have for LAMDA Learners approaching the characters for their Examinations?

Have fun playing the characters. In this scene the seduction is important. Look at what methods Anansi uses to coax Omari into going to Anansi’s world. The students could explore their own methods of persuasion. Equally Omari’s attempts to resist the temptation has to be strong to counterbalance Anansi’s manipulation. The students could perhaps examine their own methods of resistance from temptation. Then find a moment where Omari succumbs. The main thing I would say is make Anansi work hard to get Omari under his hypnotic spell. Think Mowgli and Kaa in the hypnosis scene in Jungle Book. 

What would you like Learners to take away from this duologue? 

I would like the Learners to have some fun exploring the wants of each character. Be mischievous and playful. I would like the Learners to have a good time and come away smiling. 

What advice do you have for young people interested in the world of performance?  
  • Enjoy performing and read a lot of scripts. 
  • If you want to be a professional actor, be ready for rejection and don’t take it to heart if you don’t always get the part you want at an audition. Directors are looking for people who they think best suit the vision they have in their head. Don’t take their choice too personally. 
  • Always have people around you that care for you, as being a performer can be tough. 
  • Learn as many skills as you can: perform, write, direct, produce. That way you have more choices and can get more work!

Why do you think speech, drama and performance is an important part of education?

Speech, drama and performance is an important part of education because it improves communication skills and gives you techniques on how to present yourself. Role play is also a great way to imagine yourself in situations, in a safe environment, which helps build confidence in social and professional situations.

Explore the anthologies further:

Monologues and Duologues for Young Actors and Monologues and Duologues for Teenage Actors are now available to order through the LAMDA online store. The books are designed to provide options for Learners’ own-choice pieces, and to spark your curiosity beyond the LAMDA Exams set piece selections. 

Find out more & order the books