BEING ONE of 18 to be accepted out of nearly 5,000 applicants for the Bachelor of Arts in acting at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama at the University of London this year, underscores that Sule Kamu Thelwell has what it takes to become a star.
The 19-year-old rising thespian, who hails from the parish of Clarendon in Jamaica, attended the Glenmuir High School and only recently completed five subjects in Cape Unit 2 at DeCarteret College in the neighbouring parish of Manchester. Now he’s ready to show the world of theatre the mettle he’s made of.
Sule Kamu, whose African name was given to him by his grandmother, means “adventurer” and “brave warrior”, meanings he often draws on to fuel his bold dreams. Despite the financial challenges mounted before him, this “brave warrior” is determined that nothing will curtail his pursuit for a career in the dramatic arts.
“I just need a chance to get there. Once I get there, I don’t think the school is going to want to let me go,” a confident Sule Kamu said as he also disclosed that he was accepted to all five drama schools he applied to in the UK.
“It wasn’t a case where I think I couldn’t do it, but to know that I actually did, makes me proud of how far I’ve come.”
“I just need a chance”
From as young as age six, Sule Kamu discovered that he enjoyed performing.
“It’s something that had always made me happy. I would watch movies and would try to emulate the way they spoke and behaved,” he said.
While in fourth and fifth form at Glenmuir High, he entered solo and group performances in the annual competitions mounted by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, earning six gold medals at the parish level.
Notwithstanding his knack for the performing arts, Sule Kamu had never considered a career in acting. As an artist, he was focused on pursuing a career in architecture until two summers ago when he enrolled in the Quilt Performing Arts Company drama camp, where he discovered his true passion.
Subsequently, Sule Kamu began acting professionally and has represented Jamaica at CARIFESTA 2019, in Trinidad and Tobago. He played the lead role in Fear, an international short film produced in Jamaica and was a part of the cast of ReAshore’d, a full theatre production by Quilt, which was nominated for 15 Actor Boy Awards, the country’s foremost awards for achievement in theatre. He also plays a role in a new music video for Bob Marley endearing classic, No Woman No Cry.
‘Ambitious, driven, grounded and principled’
“I realised that drama was so much more than entertainment. Drama influences society because art is a reflection of life and [through] art, you can change lives. When I realised that it was fulfilling and that I could do it for the rest of my life and help impact people, I decided that it was something that I would pursue.
“I have to thank Quilt. They have really trained and refined me in two years,” he said.
Founder and Art Director of Quilt Performing Arts Company, Rayon McLean, is confident that Sule Kamu has a promising future in the theatre and film industry.
“He is ambitious, driven, grounded and principled. He is talented and has star quality on camera and on stage. He is a critical thinker who has a global lens. He is a dreamer but also practical,” said McLean.
At the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, whose alumni includes renowned and legendary Academy Award-winning British actors, such as Sir Laurence Olivier and Dame Judi Dench, Sule Kamu’s fandom is already growing.
Acting president and student union vice president at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Kiren Kebaili-Dwyer, disclosed that students and staff have already begun rooting for Sale Kamu after becoming aware of his acting skills.
“His passion that came across in his audition; that kind of drive and that fire I don’t think you can really learn. It is something that I saw in him straight away. His passion is amazing. That, plus the innate talent that he really has means that he is the perfect fit for any drama school,” Kebaili-Dwyer said.
He added that getting into the acting programme is extremely competitive, as about 95 per cent of the approximately 5,000 applicants each year choose acting as their first option. The other two options are acting collaborative and devised theatre and acting musical theatre, which each enrol a cohort of 18 applicants annually.
Sule Kamu, who lists British actors, Idris Elba and Benedict Cumberbatch among the performers he most admires, has started a GoFundMe account to raise the £27,929 needed to realise his dream of attending Royal Central in October. The account can be accessed from his personal website at sulekamuthelwell.com.
“I just need a chance,” he said, emphasising his one desire – his dream of becoming an actor.