BWW Interview: Basheba Baptiste Talks MEMORIES at Lyric Hammersmith
Basheba Baptiste is a young actor and playwright. Her play Memories is being performed as part of the Evolution Festival currently running at Lyric Hammersmith.
Who or what inspired you to get into theatre?
I guess I've always been really dramatic! When I started studying English in secondary school, I had a great teacher who loved combining English and Drama into our lessons about Othello, and I've loved being theatrical ever since.
How did you get involved with the Evolution Festival?
I've been a young person at the Lyric for ages, and in my third year of university I submitted my play Memories to their open mic slots. Eventually, they had to add a fourth show because it was sold out. People were begging to get their foot in the door! Now it's getting its own run at the festival.
What is Memories about?
In a nutshell, it's about kids in care. It's about the impact mental health can have on young people and how finding yourself is so key to a better life.
It's also about what happens when you don't listen to people who've been through an ordeal. If young people don't find themselves, they don't grow. They're stunted. It's based on the experiences of me and my sisters.
How have you found putting your personal experiences on stage?
Sometimes I don't believe it's happening. I think it's beautiful seeing how someone else interprets your experiences.
For this particular run I haven't been in the rehearsal room much, because previously we had an issue with actors being too focused on trying to create my vision of the piece. This time I got a director etc., so it's their interpretation.
How has that change in process been?
It's been so random to have so many of us on one team when previously it was just me and my colleague, Angel. As a producer, I've found it so strange not having much to do at times, because everyone has been so on top of what they need to do for the show.
On occasion, Angel and I feel like our heads are exploding, but things aren't really as busy as they seem in real life!
You're also part of the Lyric Ensemble. Can you please tell us a bit about that?
The Lyric Youth Ensemble is a group of 15 young actors aged 18-25. We're put in a room together every week for nine months with the brief of coming up with a play.
We have support like a director, a scriptwriter, assistant director etc., and at the festival we do a scratch production of what we've been working on, before doing a full two-week run in June.
It's a bit daunting at times, but the ensemble and our team are so supportive of what we do.
How has your involvement with the Lyric informed your craft?
I've only started being part of the Lyric Ensemble this year, but I've been around the Lyric since I was 16, so I've got into every nook and cranny of the building.
It's my own personal home-from-home, and the people here have helped me to be myself and figure out what I really want out of theatre.
Why do you think inclusive theatre schemes targeted at young people are important?
I think theatre for young people is important because a lot of young people, from as early as the age of 10, start to question themselves. As soon as you do that, you can corrupt your entire future.
Theatre gives young people a place to be themselves and figure out who they want to be. It's important that theatres include young people in their activities because by reaching out to them and involving them, they're helping to raise a village of young people who are sure of themselves.
What advice would you have given yourself five years ago?
Stop stressing about things that you can't control. The only thing you can change is yourself.
Any other projects coming up?
Aside from the Lyric Ensemble run in June not very much, but Prime Presents, the theatre company I work with, want to do any theatre that represents life. We have a show in the works called Just Me, but we welcome any future collaborations.
Why should people come to see Memories?
Memories is something you've never seen before. People might think because it's about care it's Tracy Beaker all over again, but it's not. It's a romcom, soap opera and fantasy all rolled into one.