Why We Tell the Story: In Conversation with Kwame Asiedu

My next exciting guest in this series is Kwame Asiedu, a London-based theatremaker. In this interview, we talk about his experience with directing ‘Chicken Burger N Chips’ and why this play is about so much more than knife crime alone. Read on to find out more.

Name:  Kwame Asiedu

Role: Director of Chicken Burger n Chips

Favourite Show/Play: Really hard question. I appreciate all forms of art that use story to empower disempowered groups and engage audiences through challenging ideas.

Favourite Part about Theatre: I love using my insight and experiences to bring ideas to life in new ways, with the help of other creative, talented people in this field.

Q: Can you tell us what ‘Chicken Burger n Chips’ is all about?

A: The piece is a semi-autobiographical narrative about Corey Bovell, a teenager from Lewisham who recounts events on his 6-week summer holidays in 2009, before his murder on the day of his A-level results.

Q: How did you first come across this play, written by Corey Bovell, and what drew you to work on it in particular?

A: I was connected to the play and Corey by my mentor Gbolahan Obisesan. Although the play is set in 2009, it mirrors what is happening today in 2020. Eleven years later, knife crime continues to rise. I was drawn to the play as it challenges ideas, perception, stereotypes and identity, which I wanted to direct in an interesting way.

Q: For anyone who hasn’t been involved with directing before, can you describe what the creative process is like? Especially working on a solo show? 

A: I start the creative process by reading the script numerous times to submerge myself into the story and note any visual ideas that come to mind, or questions for greater clarification from the writer, if needed. Before rehearsals begin, I have a general view of the direction I want to go in to bring the play to theatrical life, but it’s not rigid.

I reach out and hire creatives in the various departments who I admire or want to work with and before rehearsals begin, we have a few meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page in regards to the play’s message. A rehearsal schedule is produced and I work with the actor to improvise with movement, ideas and delivery, locking in what works and discarding what doesn’t. We work through the whole script in this way until all decisions are made.

Working on a solo show where the actor is also the writer is unlike any other experience. They are close to their work as they wrote it and so there may be differing opinions regarding the directorial process. The actor/writer has to learn to trust the director and their vision, and the director has to communicate effectively their vision. Communication, trust and collaboration has to be present in the room.

Q: How has this project been different, if at all, from the other ones you’ve worked on in the past? 

A: This is my first project supported by the Arts Council which has allowed me to work with award winning creatives, learn from them and push the levels of my artistry and craft. This play is the first one man show I have directed. It is also the first play where we are bringing important themes relevant in society to the stage and because it is set in the same borough as the play, reality is even closer for the audience members who live in the area.

Q: One of the themes in the play is knife crime and the consequences of violence. On this topic, what do you hope audiences will take away when they come to see Chicken Burger n Chips?

A: The very nature of this question is the reason why the play has been created. The play is not about knife crime but about the hopes and dreams of a young teenager who lives in a world where this occurs. This world has been created by austeric government policies, centred around gentrification, removal of community spaces for expensive flats, all of which change the geographical and financial landscape for families that reside there and can result in hardship and poverty.

When this results in violence and includes young black men, the portrayal is always negative in the media which misinforms, reduces empathy and continues racial stereotypes. I would like the audience to acknowledge their thoughts at the end of the play, and rather than focusing on the knife, begin to question the circumstances with which some members of society live in and how that can be changed.

Thanks for reading! And a huge thank you to Kwame for the interview. You can catch Chicken Burger n Chips at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre running until 14 March 2020. 

https://brockleyjack.co.uk/jackstudio-entry/chicken-burger-n-chips/

If you’d like to see more of Kwame, his website and social media links are below. 

https://www.kwameasiedu.com

https://twitter.com/ItsKwamz.

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