Patrick Diabuah: The Multi-Talented Thespian
Patrick Diabuah is one of the exponents of acting in Nigeria. An actor who knows his onions, he is known to act out the script brilliantly to the admiration of many lovers of the art form. Interestingly, he is also a sculptor, voice actor and voiceover artist, singer and acting coach.
He speaks to the Guardian Life about his love for the stage.
Tell us about your love affair with Theatre Arts
My love for theatre started at a very early age. Music was my first contact when it comes to art. My father was a musician, he played the trumpet so there was a lot of music in the house. I remember waking up every morning and the first thing we heard was music from the old record player. There was something about those songs you know, you could almost see the story of the songs happening before your eyes. My mother, on the other hand, always told us stories and sang to us. I grew up with these two things, (music and storytelling). I guess you could say the foundation of theatre was played for me by my parents. They didn’t intend to, but they did, and I grew up loving anything that had to do with music and storytelling. Hence my love for the theatre.
Would you say that you prefer stage plays to acting?
You mean if I prefer the stage to tv or film? Well, ultimately playing on stage for me, will always be my most preferred medium of expression. I like the screen too because it comes with its own kind of positive challenge. But I find that stage allows me to put my skills as an actor to the test more.
Stage plays are gaining attention in Nigeria, but even this is not enough. What do you think is causing this deficit of appreciation?
Many reasons. I guess the cost of living in the country is one of them. Many people can barely afford the basic necessities of life, let alone go to see a play. Theatre for many still feels like a pastime for the elites. Most people don’t even know what theatre is, I guess it is because the institutions such as cultural centres that are set up to promote and grow the culture of theatre don’t even function.
Some of these so-called art and cultural centres have been reduced to mere halls for wedding receptions, party halls and the likes. Also, the government pays more lip service to the development of arts and culture. And many corporate bodies are not willing to invest in arts if they are not sure of making quick returns on their investments. And I don’t blame them, because currently, the Nigerian state is too volatile for investment of any kind particularly the arts.
What do you look out for the most before accepting a script?
I know it would be cliche to say I look out for a good story, but yes I do look out for a good story. One that I too can learn something from. I also look out for a story that can take me to a world outside of my existing reality, that’s another reason we are actors, the fun of escaping to a different world. The privilege of leaving behind every day, that we have so much come to take for granted. Another thing I look out for is the character I will be playing, the more complex the better
Of all the characters you have ever played, which one resonates with you the most?
I think it would be Bro Jeroboam from the trials of brother Jero, though a sly character, but he is a personality I would describe as “an actors delight”. A very simple yet complex person. Jero stretched my acting range and I dare say, without a shred of doubt, that it was the most fun character that I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.
How has theatre arts changed your life?
Theatre has taught me a lot. One of them is, stepping back and observing people properly. Trying to understand why people are the way they are, put me in their shoes and have more effective interactions with them.
You are a sculptor, voiceover artist, actor, singer and acting coach. How do you cope with Imposter Syndrome?
I think it is only natural sometimes to feel like you’re not as good at what you do. I’ve learned to see that feeling as natural and somewhat true. But instead of letting it drive me to the ground, I use it as a springboard to push my skill to the next level. In the words of Marcus Aurelius “throw me to the wolves, and I shall return, leading the pack”. It is a bad feeling -“impostorism” but then what are you going to do about it? I choose to let it move me to the next ring of the ladder.