Interview: Bethan Mary-James on Trouble in Butetown – ‘It’s a play about home’

In her illegal boarding house in Butetown, Cardiff, Gwyneth Mbanefo (Sarah Parish, Bancroft) toils tirelessly to keep afloat.
It’s a port town during the war; home to souls from every corner of the globe.  When Nate, an African American GI, escapes his barracks and discovers this new world without segregation, can he find safe harbour in Tiger Bay? And with danger on every corner, who can he trust?
Bethan Mary-James, plays Peggy, in the world premiere of Trouble in Butetown by the award-winning playwright Diana Nneka Atuona (Liberian Girl), directed by Tinuke Craig (Jitney, Old Vic).
Ahead of opening night, we spoke to Mary-James about her acting roots, the play and being part of opening a new show.

Q&A with Bethan Mary-James

Hi Bethan, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Tell us a little bit about your background – how did you get into acting?

Me and my older sister Kezrana, played dress up and it stuck, I think we had a bug for performance and my dad saw we both had a talent for it and with supportive parents, they threw us into any extracurricular activities such as Chruch Creative Ministries, Cardiff Theatres and Youth Club was huge too.

What can you tell us about Trouble in Butetown and your role?

I play Peggy Wilmot, who knows how to have all the fun. She doesn’t take life too seriously, but she is aware of the value and how life is finite; so she’s not going to wait for it to happen for herself or the ones she loves. She’s an open book, for the most part.

What was it that attracted you to Peggy as a character?

Her upfront, unapologetic playfulness.


How does it feel to be opening a show at the Donmar Warehouse?

It’s great to be part of opening a new show I think. The creative process is slightly different in that we can bring our thoughts and suggestions to the table and have access to the writer, which is a luxury and there is space for flexibility to fill out our characters.

How have rehearsals been so far, and what has it been working like with the rest of the cast and creatives on the show

Rehearsals have been lovely so far, we are still getting to know each other and when we being to get the play more up on its feet and see what our world feels like, the more in sync we’ll get.

Finally, how would you describe Trouble in Butetown to someone considering buying a ticket for the show?

It’s a play about home. A moment in time in a small pocket in the heart of Cardiff and it is filled with richness.