|Profile: Craig Pinder|
Guardian National Correspondent
Published: Feb 27, 2012
In his latest role, Bahamian performer Craig Pinder takes on Shakespeare’s tragic character of Othello, a cultural outsider in his community whose actions challenge society’s rigid expectations of his character.
Though Pinder’s story is one of triumph rather than tragedy, his international career in theater has kept him at a distance from his Bahamian home. Recently however, with a string of Bahamian parts played out both on the stage and on screen, Pinder looks to The Bahamas as a promising place of growth in performing arts with the right encouragement he’s seen instituted in the places he’s lived abroad.
“Every time I come back to The Bahamas, I’m always astounded at how much natural talent and ability Bahamians have,” he said. “All I see is opportunities that are needed for kids and adults to help them develop that creativity, like a National Youth Theatre Program and workshops besides a thriving scene of theatrical productions.”
“I think The Bahamas can be a center for theater – the talent and desire is here. The response to Othello is fantastic, people are keen and longing for it,” he continued. “Theater needs funding. It hardly makes any money, especially good theater. But just because it doesn’t make any money doesn’t make it less valid. That needs to be respected – it’s not a waste of money to invest in these projects.”
Though he lives and works in the UK to pursue a fulfilling stage acting career, Craig Pinder’s Bahamian roots run as deep as his love for performance. Inspired by his father Bill Pinder, who he performed alongside as a young boy of eight years old in productions in The Bahamas, he was bitten by the bug.
It wasn’t until high school at Queen’s College, however, that his English teacher, Rodger Kelty, pointed out that his love for performance matched his inherent talent when, at his teacher’s urging, Pinder recited passages from Henry V in the fashion of Lawrence Olivier.
“Afterwards, he came up to me and said I should go into acting, but I didn’t think it was possible,” remembered Pinder. “The people I knew who did acting were TV stars and it seemed so far away, so inaccessible. How could a Bahamian do it? It seemed to be an impossible dream.”
Yet while studying Chemistry at Reading University in England in the 1970s, Pinder still couldn’t avoid his true calling. He joined the Drama Society on campus and immediately landed his first major lead role as Romeo in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”.
“I was there studying chemistry, but my heart was in drama,” he laughed.
So after graduating and while working and living at home in The Bahamas and with the urging of his mentor Audry Grindrod, he worked towards earning his London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) gold medal. When the opportunity presented itself to try out for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) while he completed his LAMDA, he took it and earned one of the only two spots available for his division. Pinder eluded such talent as a dedicated performer during his time at RADA from 1979-1981 that he left with the Ronson Prize for the most Promising Actor Award.
With that under his belt, Pinder went on to lead the actor’s life first in New York City with off-Broadway stage acting stints and small TV roles interspersed with odd jobs, and then finally to London, where he set his sights on a major stage career.
“I think I’m more of a theater person – some people, the camera loves them, but theater is me,” he said. “London was and still is a theater place with a lot of big name actors. They have a tradition of it.”
Since then, Pinder has become a stage sensation in the UK acting world, breaking out with his first major lead role, Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables”, and then, upon joining the Royal Shakespeare Company, many notable roles in Shakesperean productions. He’s also had notable roles in “Mamma Mia!”, “Sweeney Todd”, “Footloose” and “Death of a Salesman”, among other diverse roles in emerging plays.
Yet Pinder experienced great fulfillment when he was finally able to make a big impact in the Bahamian performing scene, playing a part in Kareem Mortimer’s groundbreaking film, “Children of God”.
“It was a fantastic experience and it was the first time I think I’ve ever played a Bahamian and it felt very strange and very wonderful – I could actually ‘act’ being Bahamian instead of putting on an American or British accent,” he remembered. “It just meant so much to me to do that.”
He then also took part in the film “Wind Jammers” and in “The Tempest”, which he also co-directed as part of the Bahamian theater festival, Shakespeare in Paradise. Such opportunities were invaluable to the actor who finds theater and film developing at an exciting pace in his homeland.
“At the back of my mind, I always wanted to come back and do something in the creative environment here because it’s a part of me. It’s a part of my cultural background and as an actor, you’re really acting parts of yourself,” he said. “If you spend your entire career not referring to your own culture, you’re missing a huge part of your creative spectrum.”
Likewise, he also pointed out that if a society misses out on its cultural aspects like theater – indeed, all arts – it suffers a lack of benefits the arts can bring not only as an enjoyable and thought-provoking pastime to its patrons, but as a fulfilling activity for its artists and amateurs.
Rising crime rates certainly have a multitude of contributors, but with a lack of an infrastructure not only to encourage arts developments with funding at the professional level, but also at the amateur level with students, the youth will continue to misdirect their energy into dangerous and unfulfilling pastimes when the alternative could easily be presented to them.
“People seem to think the arts aren’t important. Generally politicians cut arts funding because it’s seen as a luxury, but I say you think that at your peril,” said Pinder. “If you’re going through tough times, how can a society heal its suffering without addressing it?”
“Art is important because it tells us about ourselves, our experiences, about what we all have in common, all these feelings we can’t explain or control that are irrational,” he continued. “But if you see something that touches on those experiences, it often helps you to deal with them. It’s a mirror to nature, as Shakespeare said, it’s a way of finding out what we’re about and a way to help ourselves to be better, happier, more in control and more fulfilled, more whole.”
|Last Updated on Monday, 27 February 2012 14:09|