Lakesha Arie-Angelo, alumna, BA Theatre ProductionExploring theatre as a common language: graduate Lakesha discusses how her study at LSBU led to a role as Soho Theatre's Resident Director
Graduating in 2009 with a BA in Theatre Practice: Creative Production (now BA Theatre Production), Lakesha has recently been appointed Resident Director at the Soho Theatre Group, one of the most acclaimed comedy and cabaret theatres in London.
With a passion for theatre that explores the concepts of ‘identity’ and ‘self’, Lakesha’s journey since leaving London South Bank University (LSBU) has provided plenty of opportunities to discover new ideas and issues.
“I love working on shows where I know little to nothing about the subject matter and I have to do extra research,” she remarks. “For example, when I was Resident Assistant Director at The Finborough Theatre; I worked on a play called P'Yongyang, a love story set in North Korea. Doing the research for that was fascinating.”
Picking a course
Thinking back to her decision to go to university, Lakesha cites the importance of studying a course that explored all aspects within the theatre industry, which she felt LSBU offered. In addition, an obvious benefit to studying here was the location: on the doorstep of some of the UK’s leading performing arts hubs, the Young Vic, The National Theatre and Royal Festival Hall, to name just a few.
For Lakesha though, it was the diversity of the student population that really made it the perfect choice.
I wanted to study at a university where it wasn't a rarity to see a face like my own. I had spent my former years being the one of the few BAME students at school and I wanted to change that. LSBU reflects London’s diversity and I loved that aspect of university life.
After graduation, Lakesha decided to complete a PGCE qualification, enabling her to work as a drama teacher. When she decided to pursue freelance creative work Lakesha admits it was hard to transition from the security of a teaching career and become fully immersed in the world of theatre. Thinking back the first public reading of her debut play, both written and directed by her, Lakesha remembers this as the overwhelming moment she realised it had all been worth it: “Hearing a round of applause, laughter or gasps at something you have created is a pretty good feeling!”
As part of her ongoing personal and professional journey, four years ago Lakesha set up her own theatre company, Pidgin Playhouse. Pidgin (Pij-in) means a simplified form of speech used for communication between people not sharing a common language. Lakesha’s vision for the company is to create work that is universal, no matter what language an audience identifies with.
She also cites her recent appointment as Resident Director of the Soho Theatre group as a career high, a job which 250 people applied for. Lakesha credits the support of her family, friends and her other half as essential to maintaining the drive and determination to continue pushing forward.
Lakesha’s job means she spends a lot of time in the rehearsal room working with a cast to bring a piece of theatre to life. When she’s not working, Lakesha often finds inspiration along the Southbank, pausing to people-watch while taking in the river views. Another important part of keeping her creativity flowing is finding the time to visit more plays and productions.
A trip to see a show always motivates me; it can remind me of why I do what I'm doing; even if it's a really bad show, I always come out feeling something.
Lakesha admits that she can be guilty of procrastination, though. As well as developing her craft, Lakesha had to learn how to be more productive. Earlier in her career while working as a freelancer, she found it particularly difficult to work from home. One solution was to find interesting places to work in London, like the Southbank Centre where there are plenty of public spaces filled with other creative people working on scripts, holding meetings or learning lines.
Lakesha's advice to current students and those thinking about studying in the arts is to make the most of the connections and opportunities on offer during your time as a student.
“Lecturers are experts in their field, often with good connections to industry,” she says. “Volunteer for roles they have on offer, or ask them to put you in touch with professionals they know. Put yourself out there and get some experience whilst you study.”
Finally, Lakesha’s top tip for success is: “Love what you do, it will make your life much easier!”
You can connect with Lakesha on LinkedIn.