A Music student has been elected President of the Oxford University Drama Society for the first time in its history. Francesca Amewudah-Rivers is a final-year undergraduate at St John’s College reading for a degree in Music. She also spends much of her time in the theatre as producer, director and composer.
In a feature in the latest issue of Cherwell, Fran explains how she became more and more involved in the Oxford drama scene. She began to realize how much she wanted to transform things, and this led to her setting up Oxford’s BAME Drama Society to provide a space for people of colour to develop, explore and encourage dramatic ideas and impulses. Out of this grew the all-BAME production of Medea at the Keble O’Reilly Theatre, for which Fran also wrote the music, and which was met with critical acclaim. Speaking to Cherwell, Fran recalls witnessing ‘the effects of Medea, and insists that “the most rewarding thing” about the performances was “seeing diversity in the audience.” She recalls seeing people of colour, utterly enthusiastic, because normally “they’re not seeing their stories on stage.”‘
On her role in creating the music for the production, Fran writes:
‘Writing music for theatre has always been a big interest of mine, so I wanted to pick a play that would allow me to experiment with different forms of musical expression. The versatility of the Chorus in Greek Tragedy as a dramatic device is really exciting and unique to this genre and meant that I was able to use a mixture of live music on the piano and djembe, choral arrangements, recorded sound, and accompanied spoken word to form the narrative arc of the play. My vision for creating the soundtrack was to merge the past with the present, interweaving influences from popular music from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Stormzy and Ibeyi, with traditional South Indian classical sounds and familiar African-American spirituals, with the common messages of struggle, peace and endurance pervading throughout every song.’
You can read the full Cherwell interview with Fran here.