The actor celebrates all big events in his life by wrapping his arms round a sturdy trunk. With the help of director Kwame Kwei-Armah, he has turned his obsession into a show
Idris Elba has a thing about trees. Hes got a tattoo of one on his left arm, partially hidden today by a black T-shirt but thats not all. Whenever Elba needs to mark a major event in his life birthdays, new years, that kind of thing he heads outside and wraps his arms around a trunk. I just feel a massive connection to the roots that are underneath, which are very high and wide, and to the oxygen that comes from the top, he says. And then theres me in the middle Idris Elba, tree-hugger!
He lets out a burst of laughter, as does the director Kwame Kwei-Armah. The pair are here today because theyve collaborated on a new project called, funnily enough, Tree an ambitious mix of music, dance and drama set to premiere at this years Manchester international festival. The pair have known each other for decades but this is the first time theyve worked together. The seeds are laid right, Elba says, and the metaphors continue, with much talk of cultivating and planting in their creative process.
The productions deepest roots, says Elba, grew from his experience in South Africa playing Nelson Mandela in the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. For inspiration on how to emulate the man, Elba had looked to his own father, who shared Mandelas infectious smile and similarly pointed with his middle finger yet shortly after seeing the movie, his dad died. Elba felt compelled to revisit the country and make an album in his fathers honour 2014s Mi Mandela that featured a song called Tree, which is sort of on the nose, a love letter to my dad.