Kema Sikazwe on Shine: 'Because it's my story, I made sure I approached it with as much truth as possible'
- Gareth K Vile
- 18 April 2019
A personal story with resonance from the rapper, writer and actor
Having made his debut in Ken Loach's hard-hitting I, Daniel Blake, rapper, writer and actor Kema Sikazwe has discovered an enthusiasm for theatre that has led to the creation of Shine, an autobiographical journey that asks profound questions about the nature of identity.
'I got interested in what makes us who we are,' he says. 'Is it what people say we are? Our experiences? Or our circumstances? Do we get to choose? Or is it destiny?' Sikazwe's life experiences have crossed both artistic and geographical boundaries – his family moved from Zambia to Newcastle when he was only three – and in telling his story he uses the skills of a storyteller and musician to explore the currently fashionable marriage of gig and theatre.
'I had wanted to tell my story for so long,' he continues, 'and a live show was the best way to do it. Because it's my story, I made sure I approached it with as much truth as possible. I go with my gut feeling with every word in the script, or change I make to the show.'
Theatre has traditionally had a problem with including stories from outside its middle-class, white base – since the reassertion of tragedy in the late nineteenth century as its central genre, the potential for other stories opened up by the loose structure of melodrama has been sacrificed for either formal experimentation or the re-iteration of 'classic' conflicts. Having worked with Ken Loach, a determinedly socially engaged filmmaker and developing a career as a rapper, Sikazwe's biography offers an insight into an individual's life within a wider multi-cultural understanding of identity and community.
For director Graeme Thompson, Shine is an opportunity to create 'something that really speaks to things happening in our world today. To think that this is his debut theatre show is very exciting, it's a very ambitious piece of work. It's a very personal story to Kema but there is so much people can relate to. Also, it has an amazing original soundtrack and music.'
Shine, Live Theatre, Newcastle, Thu 2–Sat 11 May; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 16–Sat 18 May.