Writer and Performer Sabrina Richmond talks about taking part in LegalAliens’ podcast series ‘THINGS I AM NOT’
Responding to the powerful statement “Things I am Not!”, ten female artists were asked to use this as a basis to ultimately create ten original monologues produced by LegalAliens Theatre Company. Highlighting the experiences of female artists who have migrated to the UK, the THINGS I AM NOT podcast series gives voice to the often underrepresented. Currently available to access via the LegalAliens website, writer and performer Sabrina Richmond tells us more about her process responding to the “Things I am Not!” statement, working with director Becka McFadden to realise her episode and what she’s taken away from from the project.
Hi Sabrina, you’ve worked with LegalAliens to create a podcast episode for their ‘THINGS I AM NOT’ series. How are you feeling ahead of the launch?
I’m very excited to hear the words of the other women in the series because I know I will feel the commonalities in our stories.
There’s also that feeling of how to capture a deep truth in a meaningful way with all its complexity. The first time I wrote autobiographically, it was an 1 hour show and it took weeks to (emotionally) understand that it can never be the whole story and that’s okay.
Ten female writers and performers who have migrated to the UK were asked to create a piece responding to the theme ‘THINGS I AM NOT’, and from a first person point of view. How did you find responding to this and how did this influence your creative process?
The stimuli helped me refine a way to talk about something I have been wanting to talk about for a while. The othering we experience in society is very much about people defining us by what we are not, so I had an immediate reaction in my bones when I saw the callout; I knew I had to get involved. It has been a crucial part of my healing (and continuing to be grounded in myself) from the harsh conditions of living in English society to remember what I am and evolving to be on my terms. To find on an emotional and mental level the antidote to heal the negative things placed on you. So the process for me was about thinking about these things and arriving at a vocalization of the physical cost of being othered in society, paying an homage to my body that has been harmed as a result of this harshness; stress has to live somewhere if you can’t release it. And because I have lived in many countries, it was interesting to discover that in all of them society had a lot to say about my body.
At that first session when we all met on a Zoom, I left so joyous because there were all these women present who, to society, on the outside, should be very different from each other but that were so similar in that we understood what it is to leave home; we understood the beauty and naturalness in having multiple languages; and being born to parents not all from the same place either. And it translated to the sensitivity of saying ‘how do I pronounce your name’. I get away ‘easy’ on that, people often brace when they meet me and ask my name and then exhale a sigh of relief when they realise it’s an ‘easy’ one.
There’s nuance sorely missing on the debate on diversity and inclusion in England. Me as a Black African migrant will have so much in common with an Italian migrant woman for example because of the specific way we are excluded from the society we are living in based on accent for example. So, as migrants, we should be part of any debate about trying to equalise society right now.
And more importantly to me, we have an innate understanding that to move around the globe is human. We live beyond borders in our outlook of the world because our existence is proof of that humanity.
Directed by LegalAliens Associate Artistic Director Becka McFadden, how have you worked together to create the episode?
In that first session, I remember Becka talking about how she worked from a physical place and I immediately felt that she would understand me and what I was trying to do because movement & music are a big part of how I create and find words. So an artist who is passionate about that languageless place can only help you see the words you’re trying to find – often when I work with African migrants there’s an unspoken secondhand in cultural context.
Likewise, it was easy to talk and work with Becka as we are both migrants, even if I don’t know everything about her, I know she knows what it is to migrate across countries and make yourself in each one. I am very grateful to her and Lara for the openness and guidance.
What have you taken away from being a part of the project?
Rumi says ‘What hurts you blesses you; darkness is your candle’.
It has helped me to make art of the hard things not for healing – arts’ greatest job in my view. I realised that I could laugh at certain aspects of my experiences. I also really enjoyed working in this medium. Working on this has helped me see a potential little creative embryo for something else…
Listeners will be invited to submit their responses to podcasts weekly, what does it mean to you that listeners can showcase their reactions to your piece?
That’s why we make art; to talk to others. I trust human hearts all know each other on that level so I look forward to it.
What can listeners expect from your podcast episode?
A story of a woman who has shapeshifted across many countries, romantic love, song, and a tribute to the journey of healing a body.
What would you like for listeners to take away from your podcast episode?
Another Rumi saying: ‘Being a candle is not easy; in order to give light, one must first burn’.
It is just the place I am in life, trying to find a way to maintain humanity in the face of the turbulence of various forms of being othered in society. It doesn’t mean you don’t stand up when the moment comes, it just means you’re not the sacrifice in that turbulence.
Be a citizen of stories, a kingdom within, no border society places on you can ever take from you.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
To access the THINGS I AM NOT podcast, visit here…
To read our interview with Associate Artistic Director of LegalAliens Becka McFadden, visit here…