Wednesday, 28 September 2016

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Actor Hugh Douse riffs on character study, playing bad guys, and giving back

HOLDING COURT: "It is always a task to make the villain believable," says Douse (left), with costars, and bonding with daughter Catherine (below).

As an actor, Hugh Douse has a developed a knack for inhabiting the roles of archvillains and men coming to terms with their own slipperiness. In Father HoLung and Friends’ revival of Moses, he gets to sink his teeth into yet another such compelling part – the pompous Pharaoh, whom we all know from Old Testament lore as the enemy of God keeping the Israelites captive. But at his core, Douse explains, this Pharaoh is actually a man torn between opposing courses of action.

“The Pharaoh I play is one who is conflicted. He is someone who was born into a family that is accustomed to having power and not being challenged,” he explains. “But in Egypt, the numbers [of Israelites] are growing, and there’s this fear that they [the Egyptians] will one day be overthrown by them. So he’s conflicted in terms of being a humanitarian and having an empire to run.” Conflicted or not, it is not lost on Douse that this powerful ruler is no saint, which makes the character that much more intriguing and fun to play, given the multiple layers.

Is it more challenging, we asked Douse, to slip into the shoes of a villain or the stand-up guy? “Both are hard, but it is harder to play a bad guy because a bad guy can be one-dimensional,” admits the actor, last seen wreaking havoc as King Saul, the arch-enemy of our hero in 2015’s King David. “Everybody has a story, and it is always a task to make the villain believable, to show how someone turned to evil. And having the motivation for the evil makes the character, I find, more convincing to the audience.”

Conviction and depth are certainly among the qualities he brings to the portrayal, inside the National Arena. “I love Hugh’s work in the show. I think he interprets well,” observes co-star Wynton Williams, who plays Moses. “He does his homework, and I think what he comes up with is authentic and real and true. And as Pharaoh, he brings that sense of compassion alongside that sense of evil.”

With a decade-long stage career spanning drama (The Crucible), comedy (Smile Orange) and epics (the original Moses), Douse has appeared in a wonderful mix of shows, with such highlights as Louis Marriott’s Bedward, Trevor Rhone’s Old Story Time and the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company’s Purlie. Teaming up with local filmmakers, he’s done small parts in projects like Storm Saulter’s Better Mus’ Come and Chris Browne’s Ghett’a Life, and a handful of TV commercials.

Still, in addition to serving as Artistic Director of his beloved Nexus performing arts ensemble, it’s the thrill of doing a Father HoLung show (all charitable works) that appeals most to the artist in Hugh Douse, now in his 40s. “This is my way of giving back,” he says without missing a beat. “This is a chance to give back to God and to the poor, by serving his downtrodden through the very powerful ministry of Father and Missionaries of the Poor. It is in keeping with the idea of whatsoever you do to the least of my people, and it is an absolute joy to do.” 

> REVIEW: Moses is a well-made, visually stunning epic

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