Our BA (Hons) Applied Theatre graduate, Maisarra Margubul, outlines how her keen interest in art, that is both challenging and thought-provoking, resulted in her writing for the MAC Theatre in her final year project at our Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
BA (Hons) Applied Theatre student
For our Project Plan module, we were asked to research the history/culture of a regional area, event or community. This research can engage a company/individual in developing new work, or be used as a basis for a major event/project. For my research, I was very interested in working with immigrants and refugees. It's always been a fascination of mine to find out where people come from, and why they’re in a foreign country. After my second-year placement in Hong Kong, where I was constantly surrounded by expats and migrants, my fascination grew, which urged me to find out about myself and why I came to England.
During our first Project Plan session, I had already researched the community I wanted to explore and began to develop my project. I researched immigration in the UK, and how British culture is made up of so many other cultures. The main thing that stuck out to me was the fact that immigrants contribute to society just like any other British citizen. I moved to England 15 years ago, and I feel very much connected to British culture. Without knowledge of my past, a stranger would probably assume I was born here and have lived here all my life. However, the first eight years of my life were spent in Kenya, and still make up a huge part of my identity. I am always grappling with the conflict between being ‘Kenyan’ and being ‘British’…which one am I first? I am at a stage where I am ready to confront difficult conversations about my past, present and future as an immigrant and a refugee. Not only that, but the prospect of presenting others with these questions excites me.
For my Project Plan I created Hidden in Plain Sight; a research and development (R&D) project that will conclude with an immersive gallery and showcase that invites people from all walks of life to explore what it means to be an immigrant in the UK. The project will involve a range of BAME practitioners, who themselves are immigrants or have an immigrant background. As part of the project I hope to create an intercultural hub as a means of research; the practitioners involved will work closely with different organisations and charities who support immigrants and refugees of different nationalities. This hub will give them the opportunity to come together, share their experiences and take part in workshops, which will lead up to the showcase. The project will focus on raising awareness and erasing the stigma attached to immigrants by inviting a multi-generational audience to attend the showcase; this will give the audience an insight into the lives of immigrants from their own point of view, using verbatim style theatre.
I spoke to Stephanie Dale (module leader) about my project and she encouraged me to apply for the First Bite Festival which is run by China Plate Theatre. This festival provides a platform for new practitioners to showcase their work. My application was accepted, and on the 2 March 2019 we performed at the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) in Birmingham, which was amazing! The process of getting the play to the stage felt extremely long, and a lot of hard work went into it. As the performance was only a small part of my project, we created a short-devised piece that was based on real stories that I had researched beforehand. Being a woman of colour is a massive part of my identity, and growing up I was aware that there was, and still is, a severe lack of representation of BAME role models in the arts, and I am determined to change this. Which is why myself and the three other Applied Theatre students who performed in the play as part of this festival were all BAME women. I felt that it was a vital part of my project for all the actors/devisers to be BAME, so that the story could be fairly represented. It was a short play about a woman and a lawyer discussing her immigration status and the struggle she has gone through over the years to provide for her family and remain ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’ to ensure their survival.
The First Bite festival was a great way to get my project started, and it was also my first time in the industry without the safety net of university. At first it was so terrifying and exhausting because I really wanted to make a good impression, but I received a lot of support from my peers and tutors, which was great!
I feel like this project is the start of my career, which is insane because it was only supposed to be a university module that I complete and never have to think about again. To develop my project further I invited people to attend a scratch night where they could watch the performance and participate in a feedback session, which has been helpful for me to gauge an understanding of where I should take the project next. All of this happening because of a module at university, a minor part of my entire degree, has helped me figure out my next step in life, and that makes me feel really proud to study the BA (Hons) Applied Theatre course.