Former usher returns to Theatre Royal Stratford East as star performer in Our Lady of Kibeho
PUBLISHED: 12:00 29 October 2019
An usher who dreamed of treading the boards is now starring in a powerful play at the theatre where she worked.
About eight years ago Liyah Summers was checking tickets at Theatre Royal Stratford East performances but she now has a lead role in current production Our Lady of Kibeho written by Katori Hall.
Liyah, from Leyton, said: "It's really cool to be performing there now. Stratford East is a really beautiful, traditional theatre.
"It has a really responsive, vocal audience with people often shouting out, which I love."
Liyah - who also reviewed Stratford East shows when she was studying - plays Anathalie, one of three girls at Catholic boarding Kibeho College in Rwanda who together became known as "the Trinity" after sharing visions of the Virgin Mary.
Based on a true story, trio Anathalie, Alphonsine and Marie Claire are at first shunned and ridiculed, but are later taken more seriously with a Catholic clergyman visiting to find out more.
However, in one terrible vision the girls are given an apocolyptic warning of levels of violence not seen before in the east African country.
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It was a premonition of the 1994 genocide in which up to a million of Rwanda's population were killed by the ruling Hutu government in a bid to wipe out the Tutsi tribe.
On her character, Liyah said: "Anathalie is great. She's very bookish. She doesn't want to cause drama. She's the most religious of all the girls. She takes the visions in her stride straightaway."
Commenting on the play, directed by James Dacre, Liyah said: "What I like about it so much is that there have been so many plays and films about the genocide, but this one shows you life before.
"I like the fact that there's something normal before things go crazy. Katori Hall is also an incredible writer. She's taken a really different approach."
This is Liyah's first job in London since she finished her training at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and The Brit School.
She made her professional debut in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Maydays before going on to star in The Velveteen Rabbit and The Old Curiosity Shop at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham.
Our Lady of Kibeho runs until November 2.
Call the box office on 020 8534 0310 or visit stratfordeast.com