London Art Spot: Keshia Watson

This is a guest London Art Spot interview for London Art Spot conducted, written and photographed by my friend Efemena Agadama who wrote a play called “Farewell Sister” which was recently performed at the New Diorama Theatre. Actress Keshia Watson played the lead role in the tale of two lovers inspired by the tragic story of Bosko and Admira in 1993 during the Bosnian war. Keshia was born in Bristol and came to London as a teenager. Efemena is originally from Nigeria. He studies And I’ll hand it over to Efemena from here…


When news filtered in that the actress playing Amina, lead character for Farewell Sister, had withdrawn from the role 24 hours to production, all eyes were fixed on Keshia Watson. Watson had been a back-up character for Amina but she had been unable to rehearse due to pace of the lead casts. And so with the sudden withdrawal of the original cast for Amina, hearts shook with fear, faces wore uncertainties, and we considered postponing the production.

Watson took the challenge and hurried her rehearsals with the other casts on the very day of production – February 13, 2012.  Everything was on a risky pillar of hope. She was under pressure yet kept her composure. This feat encouraged the other casts and the entire production team. It was rare for a back-up character to take up a challenging script, poetic and stylized with a classical tempo, with just two short rehearsals before the D-day of production.  Watson might have been unaware of the record she was about to break, and she made it.

Farewell Sister, a new play by Efemena Agadama, was eventually performed as scheduled on Monday February 13 at the New Diorama Theatre London. We’ve interviewed her to understand what inspired her at that dicey moment of failure or success.

EA: Keshia, briefly tell us about yourself as an actress.
KW: I have been acting professionally since around 2007. In subsequent years I was having a hard time getting my foot in the door. I wrote to so many agents who said no, I felt unwanted.  Then in 2007 I was nominated for an acting award (BFM International Short Film Awards – Best Female Actor) for a short film (Trippy), which seemed to be the break I needed as I got an agent a week or so later and didn’t look back.

EA: What has been your most challenging role in any previous productions?
KW: Every role has its challenges. However, playing Cassandra in the greek tragedy Agamemnon was the most challenging. It was a honour to play, I poured my heart into it. When I first read what it was that the director wanted me to do, I was overwhelmed. Cassandra speaks in verse, switches to iambic then flows back into a normal speech pattern. Also a lot of what is happening is happening inside her head. I found that in order to play it truthfully I had to allow myself to be a bit loopy.

EA: How do you find the theatre and film industry in London?
KW: It’s so vibrant. Theatre is doing some amazing things inspite of budget cuts and the recession. This is inspiring. I call the film industry my home, each year there are new strides, new stories and amazing talent. Some of the most inspiring film directors I’ve worked with include Just (Agget) Lee Isserow and Dan Turner. They continue to support both new and seasoned actors by taking risks that some would be too scared to make.

EA: What actually inspired your dedication to Farewell Sister despite being a backup character without rehearsing?
KW: I went to rehearsals without any expectation. I felt like my job was to support the actress playing Amina. I was also there to learn. It was amazing to sit and watch the production take shape. I felt loyal to the cast and production team, and didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything being a backup.

EA: How did you feel when asked to play Amina 24 hours to the theatre performance?
KW: I was scared at first. I stayed up until late going over the lines, taking notes and listening to recordings of the scenes. I spoke to friends who gave me moral support, friends who I love for just being there.

EA: What inspired you to go ahead with the production and not reject it at the last hour?
KW: It never crossed my mind to reject it. Not when the chips were down and morale so low. I couldn’t. I felt like everything I had learned had to count for something. What also helped was the variety of support I received from the production team and cast.

EA: What were your fears and how did you conquer them?
KW: I don’t think its all quite sunk in yet. I didn’t want to let the audience down, or the words or the story. A few years ago I read in a magazine the true story on which the play is based. I remember being really upset, and thinking that these great people had been taken out of the world in the name of ignorance. I didn’t want to do a dis-service to them, and my biggest fear was that I would.

EA: Do you see yourself repeating such a feat in other productions?
KW: I’m not sure. However if it does happen, I have this experience as inspiration and proof that I can do it.

EA: What’s your advice for upcoming actors in the theatre industry?
KW: Don’t be afraid to be amazing.

Thanks Efemena and Keshia!

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.