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Director and playwright Lakesha Arie-Angelo: ‘There are not enough theatre buildings for people of colour’

Director and playwright Lakesha Arie-Angelo  Director and playwright Lakesha Arie-Angelo 

Lakesha Arie-Angelo is resident director at Soho Theatre in London, where she has recently worked on Mary Laws’ Blueberry Toast and Vicky Jones’ The One. She tells Giverny Masso why she hopes to one day run her own theatre building…

How did you get into theatre?

Theatre has always been something I’ve been interested in since I was at school, I didn’t look at any other career paths. I was performing at school and college, where I did a BTec in performing arts and musical theatre. I knew I was going to get pigeonholed as a young, black woman, so I moved into directing and writing because I wanted to see more roles for people like myself. I enjoyed having creative control – it is nice to see my own vision realised.

Did you study theatre at university?

I did an undergraduate in theatre producing at London’s South Bank University. I still didn’t know how to get into the industry, as I come from a very working-class background. After that, I did a PGCE in drama teaching and worked as a teacher, which meant I could do my theatre stuff on the side. I did a lot of writing and scratch nights until I got my first theatre job as resident assistant director at the Finborough Theatre.

Tell me about your current placement as resident director at Soho Theatre in London…

It is a two-year gig and I have about six months left. I’ve worked on Blueberry Toast with Gala Gordon, and it was so interesting to see that journey and work with such a great team. I’ve also worked on Vicky Jones’ The One, which is so relevant with the #MeToo movement as it’s about toxic relationships. I helped with the casting, artistic conversations, looked at how to market it, and I’ve been assisting Steve Marmion (director). I will also be directing Holly Robinson’s Soft Animals, a play about how two women deal with trauma.

What advice would you give to emerging directors?

It’s all about having a go and believing in yourself. It is having confidence and motivation. It’s challenging to always be on your A-game, but it’s so important to be present and motivated – always learning and pushing yourself.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m just finishing an MA in playwriting at Royal Holloway and beginning to create a portfolio of work. In the long-term future, I would love to have a theatre building. I don’t think there are enough theatre buildings for people of colour. I want a physical space that is creating a high standard of work that is inclusive of everyone. I know so many amazing artists of colour, and there are always amazing opportunities for emerging artists of colour, but it’s about continuing that support, making their careers sustainable and not just picking up the next hot thing and then moving on to something else.

The One runs at Soho Theatre until August 25. More information here: sohotheatre.com/shows/the-one

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