Funding report: Khameleon – Euripides’ Medea

Report by Shivaike Shah.

Funding Received: £400

Context

Khameleon Productions presents MEDEAKhameleon is a new production company dedicated to platforming the voices of diverse artists and artists of colour. We are committed to increasing access to theatre, and to the classics, with our productions. We are creating our first show, an all BAME adaptation of Euripides’ Medea, interweaving the original with the voices of artists of colour. We are also building an expansive outreach programme to schools with the aim of forwarding classics education. A company website is under construction; in the meantime, for an example of our past work, please see torch.ox.ac.uk/files/programmepdf-1.

Summary

Using the funds generously granted to us by the Gilbert Murray Trust, we were able to commission one of the spoken word artists who has created one of the ‘choruses’ for our retelling of Euripides’ Medea. Azan Ahmed was commissioned to create an 8-minute piece for the middle of the play, as Medea creates her potions to kill Kreusa and Creon. Azan’s payment was split into two parts, half given on commission and half given on receipt of the piece.

Most importantly, his brilliant spoken word piece drew on his own heritage as a South Asian (Pakistani), and a Muslim, growing up as a child of immigrants in London. He poured his own lived experience into the piece, and helps us to fulfil Khameleon’s aims of filling our production of Medea with the voices of those often less platformed in theatre.

This is one of five spoken word pieces that are to be created for our script (two others have also already been commissioned) and these are key parts of our new adaptation. These are the spaces in which we really get to explore and platform diverse voices within the very fabric of our show.

This is just the first step in the process. We now will embark on further collaboration with Azan, pairing the newly composed music with his chorus, and then begin embedding it into our adaptation. The piece will not be released until the play is performed, but Azan has recorded a podcast with us that will shortly be available on our website.

Azan’s Statement

This opportunity has been eye opening in so many ways. It being my first commission was a huge personal milestone, and having to write with a brief and such rich source material in mind challenged me, allowing for discoveries that have helped me grow as an artist. It feels empowering to work on a project where my heritage was given a platform alongside a classical text. I feel especially grateful to have been afforded the chance to create and be paid during the instability of Covid. In a bleak time, working on this piece reminded me why I love theatre and has made me a better artist.

Azan’s Bio

Azan is an actor and poet who graduated from Royal Holloway in 2018, studying English & Drama. As an actor, he has worked with the New Diorama Theatre, Almeida Theatre, National Theatre and BBC TV. As a poet, he has collaborated with Good Chance Theatre, is an alumnus of BBC’s Words First and a Roundhouse Poetry Slam Finalist for 2020. He is represented by The Artists Partnership.

Muse + Wander: The Return Address: Where Does Heritage Belong?

We are delighted to note the successful completion by the Canadian-Italian wanderer, Issabella Orlando, of her short documentary shot on location in London and Paris, The Return Address. This documentary explores the question of why heritage objects matter to each and every one of us, and where they belong: in museums in world cities, or in the places they originally came from. With a neutral, holistic approach, it presents both sides of this long-ongoing debate, both the benefits and problems with repatriating artefacts. The project was partly funded by a grant from the Gilbert Murray Trust. You can find the film at: www.museandwander.co.uk/film.

Children’s responses to classical pottery

In conjunction with the Classical Association, Newcastle University Engagement Fund and West Jesmond Primary School, in 2015 the Gilbert Murray Trust funded a project enabling children to learn about and handle ancient pottery. This project was set up to celebrate the life of Professor Brian Shefton who, as a Classics lecturer in the University of Newcastle, built up a collection of more than 1000 objects, now housed in the Great North Museum. Below is a selection of children’s artwork inspired by their work with Greek and Etruscan objects.