Talking Vaults Festival 2019 with Nicole Acquah of ACQUAH&CO

Back from her Vaults Festival debut last year with 'For A Black Girl', Nicole is back with her brand new spoken word piece 'I stopped... when.' which already has Lynn Gardner's approval! 

Talking Vaults Festival 2019 with Nicole Acquah of ACQUAH&CO

Could you introduce yourself to the reader?

Sure. Hey, I’m Nicole. I’m an actor, a writer and a theatre-maker. I’ve always loved storytelling and language, so my favourite aspect of writing a play is probably getting to write the dialogue. Other things I enjoy doing involve dancing, blogging and martial arts. 

What's the piece about in a nutshell?

i stopped…when is a piece of new writing that melds slam poetry with theatre. It focuses on the lives of three poets of colour and their (very) energetic MC during the UK Slam Tournament. The piece explores that uncomfortable line between private versus public lives, looking at the pressures placed upon young people in interracial relationships, as well as how much of ourselves we pour into the art we make.

If you love spoken word, or you're interested in diverse stories, it’s definitely for you!

Was there a stimulus for the piece? OR Where did the story come from?

I think I first started thinking about the piece after several conversations with friends about race and relationships. I was actually surprised to find that the number of people I knew who only dated within their race was higher than I thought it was. The reasons for these were varied, but usually boiled down to one thing – negative past experiences fuelled by feeling fetishized or ‘othered’ by their previous partners. When it came to writing the piece, I wasn’t so interested in thinking about whether dating a specific type of person is ‘right or wrong’, so to speak.  I wanted to view this as an exploration into this feeling of alienation when it comes to dating  that a lot of people seemed to feel, and open up a dialogue about these situations. After I started writing the play, there was also a large incident with Black activist and actress Kelechi  Okafor, who was publicly slated for having a white boyfriend. This definitely continued to inspire my thoughts around what it means to be in love in the public eye, especially as a Black woman. So there were a myriad of influences to this one!

We reviewed your Vaults Festival debut 'For A Black Girl' last year, what made you come back this year?

Yes, and thank you for your review! Honestly, I think VAULT Festival was one of my most enjoyable performance experiences in 2018. The atmosphere is great and we had so much support – not just from the festival organisers themselves, but from audiences and from other companies performing there. It was such a lovely place and such a dynamic space in which to share your work, so it was a no-brainer to apply with a new piece actually.

What did you learn from your Vaults Festival debut and how has this shaped your 2019 participation in the festival?

I’ve learned to trust myself as a performer and a writer a bit more, to trust that what I’m saying is important and will always reach the people it’s meant to reach.

I’ve learned just how wonderful and supportive all the artists and creative teams are at VAULT, and to totally immerse myself in this world.

I’ve also learned to relax. I got so nervous and stressed in the lead up to VAULT last year, and it got out of control until the week before where I had to take some time to disconnect from social media, respond slower to messages, be slower when walking around London and just pray more. This year I remembered how I felt last year, so I’ve been a lot faster to be a lot slower. (I know, oxymoron right there! But it works).  

What advice would you give for young theatre practitioners who may be considering creating a project for the Vaults Festival?

Tell the best story you can and trust it will reach the people it’s meant to reach. Don’t worry about reviewers, don’t worry about anything outside of your control.

Read the application form carefully, so you know what space would best suit your work and why.

Make sure you enjoy the process. VAULT Festival is absolutely amazing and it’s a blessing to be there so enjoy every last minute. Squeeze the joy out of every situation, honestly.

Support the other companies & strike up conversations with as many people as possible. Give shout outs on social media, be kind and lovely and supportive. You’re all in this together.

If you have a successful run at VAULT, immediately look for other opportunities and venues to perform at. Stay proactive. (If you want to, of course).

And finally…just do it!

In your career, it seems that you are regularly interested in devised theatre. What makes devised theatre different from other styles of theatre?

In devised theatre, I feel like you can bring your personality and ideas to the table in a very different way than when you are working in a more traditional, hierarchical process. One thing I love about devised theatre is saying yes to ideas, no matter how crazy they are, because you never know what might come out of experimenting. It’s exciting because you create the map. i stopped…when actually isn’t devised – I wrote the script, but yeah, I think devising is interested because there’s so much liveness involved in the process and you can learn from the people you’re devising with in a more, shall I say, ‘direct’ way? It also tends to produce those beautifully weird still moments that rest more on feeling than on textual knowledge, which I love.

Have you made any resolutions for 2019?

I don’t set resolutions. But I do set out really clearly defined goals and actions steps to achieve those goals. I can say that one of my goals is to become fluent in Portuguese this year (I’ve been teaching myself out of my sheer love for the language. It’s gorgeous).

What will you be working on after Vaults Festival? 

I have a new play in mind all about female bodies, so I’ll probably hunker down and start writing that. I’m also working with a new female-led theatre company named Heroine Chronicles and writing a new play for them, so I’m looking forward to that one. Performance wise, I’m always looking to keep growing and learning, so I’ll be continuing to work on the craft. I would also like to expand my knowledge of film, so if there’s any filmmakers out there looking for 20 something actresses, hit me up!

For more information about the piece, check out the Vaults Festival website here

Have you seen a brilliant show recently and feel like sharing it with others? Why not become a Voice Contributor here.

Interested in producing your own show? How about reading this helpful guide for inspiration?

Header Image Credit: Vaults Festival Official Marketing 2019


Kheira Bey

Kheira Bey Contributor

A very busy bee in the arts world. Kheira is an actress, living and working in London and loves anything fresh in the world of theatre, film and art. She works across theatre and film, and is trying to get better at watering her plant collection. She has previously contributed to: Voice Magazine, The Everyday, The Sun and Good Morning Britain; and is passionate about championing female narratives and new work. Arts Award Activist 2016/17 and Vaults Festival fanatic.

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