We chatted to the actor about appearing in Children’s Children – a new film comprised of five monologues, co-produced by English Touring Theatre and Black Apron Entertainment.
Hi Khai, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Could you explain what Children’s Children is?
No problem, thank you for the interview! So Children’s Children is a collection of five short films curated by the incredible Amber James, which both individually and as a collective, delve into the complexities of the issues that surround, affect, and address the black community. What I think is so amazing about the piece is that, bar the speech that I deliver in the piece, all of the speeches are taken from incredible historical figures from within the black community, from Sojourner Truth to Desmond Pierre. The oldest speech is from 1851 and yet these words are just as prevalent today as they were then. Which is incredibly powerful on one hand and, in my opinion, incredibly frustrating too.
Could you tell me more about the monologue by Still Shady that you get to perform?
So Still Shadey, who’s an incredible artist as well by the way, gave this speech at one of the Black Lives Matter protests in London last year. The full speech, which is on YouTube, is a fair bit longer than the one I delivered in the film, and it’s beautiful, poignant and incredibly vulnerable, which made it an honour and a challenge to bring to life in my own way! But after working on the piece with Tristan (Fynn-Aiduenu) who directed my film, he felt that showcasing the speech using multiple perspectives of the same character would be a great way to open up the discussion and keep the raw emotion in the speech as well.
What made you want to be a part of Children’s Children?
I think that the older I’ve become, the more I’ve wanted to make work that facilitates the change and the ideals that I want to see within the world. Which sounds typical I know, but it’s true. Especially over the past few years with the necessary rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve felt that it’s important now more than ever, to be a part of the narrative and promote, inspire and create positive change through art. So when the opportunity to work on
Children’s Children came around I was buzzing to be a part of it and I’m honoured and proud of what we’ve achieved.
Given all the restrictions, was it challenging to put together?
It was interesting, because as different as things have become in the industry due to the pandemic, when it boiled down to my work as an actor I didn’t really feel too out of place. We made sure to adhere to social distancing rules, and wore masks on and around set, but we were just as worried about hitting certain marks and keeping continuity as we’ve always been. It kind of gave me hope that we can all really bounce back and continue to make work once everything is completely safe to do so.
What did you feel that you took away from the piece that you are a part of?
I think the main thing I gained from Shadey’s piece and our interpretation of it was this idea of unity and individualism. The speech is deeply personal but it’s also incredibly relatable at the same time, and I think that’s the reason it is so incredibly powerful. As soon as we tried it out using multiple perspectives, it really clicked in my head that together we are one and in one we are many, even when our opinions and experiences differ, you know? I think that’s really beautiful and absolutely something that I’m gonna take into my work and my life I’m general. So yeah, unity and individualism.
Why should people take a watch of Children’s Children?
Something that I’ve really taken onboard over the last year is that it is not enough to simply say “I’m not racist.” You have to actively be anti-racist. And one of the key ways of doing so is education. Children’s Children is emotive, powerful, unapologetic and visceral yes, but it is also a brief, educational glimpse into the lives and ideals of some incredible people from the black community. If the audience who have seen and who have yet to see Children’s Children take anything away from it, I hope it’s that you’re inspired to learn more about black history and to learn about the way our society affects the lives of the black individuals that inhabit it today.
By Emma Clarendon
Children’s Children is available to watch for free through the English Touring Theatre’s Youtube Channel. You can read our review of it here.