Report by Shivaike Shah.
Funding Received: £400
Khameleon 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.
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.
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 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.