Interview: Kafayat Adegoke Talks Upcoming Show “PER-SO-NA”

Perhaps most striking about Kafayat Adegoke is her unwavering and passionate openness when it comes to discussing her boundary-defying work. With her show PER-SO-NA set to play the Bridge House Theatre later this month, there’s plenty to unpick here, including what drives her to create, what inspires her to offer social commentary within her work, and of course, what we can expect (or not) from this new show…

First of all, tell me a little bit about you and your route into the arts – what’s the journey been?

I’ve spent my artistic years making art that speaks volumes in public places. I want to express my thoughts how I see them. I want to tell stories in my own distinct language, under the umbrella of art. That way I can get away with anything, I can call society out, touch up on injustice or simply be playful if I want. Yes, with obvious tact and diplomacy but, I should be able to sensitize without being restricted and silenced by proxy. Instead, create a platform where such boundary daring work can be encountered. The journey to any career is never a straight, easy path – especially in theatre, that’s my motivation to keep being goal-oriented rather than become passive.

You describe yourself as a “social-impact performer” amongst other roles within the arts – why is it important to you to make galvanising and socially aware work?

Hey, isn’t that why we are here? For me, I use originality as my currency, nothing pretentious. I enjoy reflecting the exact nature of the society I’m in, while strategically using my own lived experience as a catalyst. My performance design is Improvisation, Generating, Critique.

So let’s talk about your upcoming show, PER-SO-NA – tell me a little bit about it and where the original idea came from.

I’m looking for beauty in my imperfections, and I continue to search for it. It adopts interactive play as well as fourth wall performance technique, as the heroine  only desires to bring about a new world order for herself and shine a new light on the existing one.

This piece promises humour and sensitivity within an exploration and celebration of gendering, sex and racial culture – what are you hoping audiences will take away from seeing it?

There is constant demand out there for work that sheds light and opens up conversations about the dictatorship and conventional socially acceptable stance of living and being, especially that of underrepresented individuals like me. I am a human before I am an artist.  Per-so-na is an artistic brief that calls upon a fresh thinking perspective. It also ties into the sustainability of one’s Mental Health due to the personal life choices we make, that are considered a taboo – well, my mental health at least. I’m hoping audiences will view the character Ápinké as a visual aid for exploring mindsets.

Quite unusually, this show features live cooking and uses food as a “central device” and metaphor for labels based on sexuality. What drew you to food as a source of analogy?

I see food as a discipline and an important mode of expression. Set Menus can be utilized as a specific tool or key connector of communities and cultures, where food meets performance. But I disagree that gendering and expression of oneself fits the same box. Hence the play on words of ”Sexuality is a Buffet, not a Set menu”.

You’ve been working on material relating to this show over the last 15 years – what have been the greatest challenges and triumphs in that time?

The triumph is yet to come, I’m still in pursuit of it. It’s partly a journey of self-discovery but I do know that I’ve found it beautifully ironic that the more I can own my darkness, the brighter I can emit my light. I refuse to be coerced into a corner of shame, to consider giving you an explanation, to fit your idea of me. The challenges are still uprising, the older I become and the longer I live and exist. As much as I seem to be confident with my steps in the right direction, my approach is that of learning. I want to know me!

Plans for PER-SO-NA going forward include a “touring multi-disciplinary arts installation/exhibition featuring art film, photography, soundscape, testimonials and behind-the-scenes documents” – what drives you to explore your central themes through such a wide variety of forms and styles?

I am a combined arts performer with plenty of openness. My work cannot be confined to the boundaries of genre, style, label or form. I will express however I feel my voice will be better honed and assimilated by my target audience, at any given time, regardless of the theme I’m working with at that particular time. It broadens the dexterity of my practice.

You say your work “cannot be confined to the boundaries” of themes or labels, which is always a promising statement I think! Would you like to see the arts industry as a whole take a step towards a little less labelling and a little more openness when it comes to discussing shows?

Well, that’s a tricky one to answer because if we did that, then everyone’s output will become similar. The differences in expressions of an artist is the juice. It’s what creates the artistic side of the art world and balances the scope. I think!

Considering the subject matter, is there an age advisory for the show?

Per-so-na contains scenes of Nudity of the feminine body, and colorful language. But as I always say, the sooner the young’uns have awareness of the world around them, the better for all of us in the long run, ‘especially on this subject matter’. Age 14+ are welcome perhaps with “PG”

And finally, in no more than one sentence, why should audiences come and see PER-SO-NA?

She invites you to laugh at her insecurities, giggle at her inner struggles and celebrate her uniqueness including stories of her fake orgasms, through the story of Ápinké.

So there you have it! “PER-SO-NA” plays the Bridge House Theatre from September 29th to October 2nd 2021 and you can find your tickets here.

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