Updated: Aug 13
We had a chat with Jennifer H. the Lighting Designer for ARAWELO at the London Somali Week Festival (the Broadway Theatre, Barking and the Rich Mix). She talks about how she got involved with the production, what she thinks of the story of Queen Arawelo and whether Arawelo’s story still has any relevance in today’s society.
Tell us a little bit about you?
So my name is Jennifer, I’m 25, and I’m the lighting designer for the show. I’m also a doctoral student at Oxford where I study Medieval Literature. But my undergraduate degree is in English and Theatre. Hence, the lighting designs.
How did you get involved in the project and what made you decide to work with the Arawelo Company?
Well, I got involved with this show because Poppy (the Director) message me on Facebook and said “I need a lighting designer, please help!” It was a rather desperate message to be honest; but I got very interested in it when I first read the script because Poppy sent that over to me very early on; and I read it, and was really intrigued by it because it’s a story that is really powerful and really intriguing and obviously so controversial. It’s not a story I had ever heard before reading the script. It’s not something, unfortunately, that I was familiar with but I was struck by it and so I was quite excited to get to work with the company.
What are some of your favourite bits of the play?
I think what they’ve done with it is really lovely especially some of the devised movement sequences and where they’re all working together in unison. I mean, it’s really evocative I think. So hopefully, the lighting enhances that- I hope.
How relevant do you think the story of Queen Arawelo and this play are in today’s society?
I mean we’re still debating. We’re still debating women’s role in society and what the relationship between a man and woman should look like and whether a woman who speaks up for herself and her fellow women is a hero, some people still would dispute that. So I mean, I think it’s still relevant, certainly.
Arawelo represents female agency and empowerment. What’s your opinion on the topic?
I mean we’ve made an awful lot progress, we’ve made an awful lot of progress; but the reality is, in male-dominated fields you can still face quite a bit of prejudice. I’d like to be able to walk down the streets of London and not be called names, not be yelled at, and that’s not unique to London. That’s anywhere I’ve been in the world. It would be nice to see, if I walk into a graduate mathematics seminar, other women rather than being the only one in the room. That was a memorable day at the University of Toronto. It would be nice to, even in lighting and sound design, when I work as stage crew on shows it’s very common to have a crew of 20 people and for me to be the only woman. And so, I think some of that will change, I think we’re seeing that start to happen and I hope it continues to happen; but yeah, there’s still progress that we can make.