Toni Usman is an Oslo-based actor, director, playwright and filmmaker with a wide range of experience. His work reflects a deep community engagement and a broad knowledge of both Scandinavian and South Asian society. His work has a good eye for humorous and subtle details, portraying themes from people´s everyday life to struggles with deep existential questions.
Toni Usman was born in Pakistan but has lived in Norway most of his life. He trained as an actor with Asha Chandra in Mumbai, India. He has worked as a freelance actor in Norway since 1987 and is known for playing a wide range of characters across theatre, TV and radio. This includes roles for the TV series «Pilen Flyttebyrå», «Fedrelandet», «Asylet», the sitcom series «Bot og bedring» and the action series «Fox Grønland». His stage performances as an actor have included prominent theatre plays such as «Pakkis», «Patakha», «Pakkis 92», Henrik Ibsen’s «A Doll’s House», Lars Saabye Christensen’s «Mekka», Salman Rushdie’s «Haroun and the Sea of Stories», Saadat Hassan Manto’s «Toba Tek Singh» and the monologue «Oncle Sam» based on Manto´s «Letters to Uncle Sam». Toni Usman has worked with well-known Norwegian directors such as Svein Scharffenberg (1939 - 2017), Jarl Emsell Larsen, Morten Kolstad, Nils Gaup, Mathias Calmeyer (1964 - 2021) and Pål Øverland.
Toni Usman was the initiator of the Norwegian-Pakistani version of Henrik Ibsens «A Doll’s House», associated with the Ibsen festival in 1992.
Lately, Toni Usman has expanded his storytelling craft into directing and writing. He graduated as a director from Westerdals Oslo ACT (formerly NISS) in 2015. His graduation film «Sard», which means cold in Urdu, premiered at the Cinemateket in Filmens Hus, opened by Member of Parliament, Hadia Tajik. The film has also been screened at the Pennsylvania Directors Circle Festival of Shorts, SOAS University in London and Beaconhouse University in Lahore.
Watch the trailer here
He translated and staged the play «Time of Darkness» by the Swedish author Henning Mankell (1948 - 2015), which premiered on October 26, 2018 in Oslo. The script was also published in book form by publisher Folio Books, Lahore.
Toni Usman debuted as a playwright in 2020 with «Kaffetår» (Sip of coffee), which tells the story of the first Pakistanis to come to Norway 50 years ago. It is a historical, political, yet humorous journey covering half a century of change in Oslo and in its Pakistani community.
He is the artistic director of the theatre company Toni Usman Productions. The company makes bold artistic decisions and uses unorthodox methods to let the audience viscerally experience the performances. For example, when they staged Mankell's «Time of Darkness», about undocumented (paperless) refugees, they replaced the conventional theater stage with a damp and dark bunker.
In addition to being a performing artist, writer and director, he has also held a number of board positions, and positions of trust, that have given him a good understanding of the decision-making process in cultural policy. He has been an artistic advisor for «Open Scene», a collaborative project between the Arts Council Norway and the Norwegian Theatre (Det Norske Teatret). He has also been a board member and a nomination committee member of the Norwegian Actors' Equity Association. The Norwegian Ministry of Culture appointed him as a board member for the Fund for Performing Artists in the period 2006 - 2010.
He is currently planning the theatre production «Hundre %» (A hundred percent) which is a newly written, humorous text, which has the theme of identity, set in a backdrop of psychiatry.
© 2015 Toni Usman