This month, the Housemates Festival returns to Brixton House inviting artists to take over the House for three weeks from 4th – 23rd July.
Themes explore the complexities of youth crime and rehabilitation juxtaposed with the Black joy of growing up in south London and millennial nostalgia, intergenerational conversations on radical activism; as well as delving into the complexities of family love and relationships; and probing the big life questions about how we all survive in a capitalistic world.
We spoke to some of the wonderful cast and creative involved in this year’s festival.
Please introduce yourself …
Hello, hello, I’m Seraphina Beh, I’m an actor and creative and I’m from Croydon, South London.
Which came first,TV or theatre?
Theatre came first, and remains my first love. I started about 12 years back when Brixton House Theatre used to be Ovalhouse Theatre. There was a festival at the time called 33% (which at the time was the percentage of under 25’s working in the industry). I got my break in a play called SKEEN! written by Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu and directed by Roy Alexander Weise. I was so in love with the experience I carried on with Ovalhouse for 2 more years joining the Youth Company ran by at the time Toby Clarke, working with the theatre in different capacities. That experience set the foundation that allowed me to be the creative I am now. I’m proud of that.
REP just made sense to me. Toby reached out and I just said yes. I’m defo one of those people that
loves collaborating with others, so hearing about the script with a cast of 11, honestly, I didn’t think I’d
get a chance like that again with such a strong script. I had to say yes for myself and embrace that
challenge again. I’m happy I did.
Tell us about your team …
I’ve had the joy of working with our director Toby in the past, as well as Jamael Westman from youth
company days, Isabella Verrico just worked together on a play called Wasted at the Jack Studio with
our company’s stage manager TJ. It’s always nice to team up with friends at work that you are familiar
with but getting to know the rest of the cast has also been a complete joy. I depend on all of them and
they are all great and fit their individual characters so perfectly, which naturally make getting the job
done that more fluid and organic. And it’s a big testament to the cast, the ability to work in an ensemble.
What does the story of REP mean to you personally?
REP shines a light on the unseen, and often unsung hard work of people who connect and grow through the beauty of theatre. Even though it’s set around 9 young offenders it’s still relatable to people from all walks of life. It highlights the importance of these programmes such and youth theatre/companies, 18-25 training etc. I think we are naturally excited when we see the end results of some of the best and talented creatives when it’s time to celebrate them but all too quickly forget about the programmes that help give them their first steps. I defo wouldn’t have this 12-year experience if it was not for my youth company and the team that helped run it.
Tell us about a challenging moment during this project that you had to dig deep to get
We have 2 weeks rehearsals, so the idea of running out of time can feel challenging. It the moments time did escape us, digging deep meant trust the team, my cast and the captain of the ship our director. And honestly we’d go through things again and realise ‘ooh we actually do know what we are doing‘ in this scene and you’d feel this relief and suddenly time is not so scary anymore.
Tell us a memorable moment from rehearsals?
Whenever we play a competitive warm-up game, suddenly this really professional group of actors turn into bloodthirsty winners (myself included). It was their perfect kind of youthful chaos. It makes me so nostalgic every time.
Which scene/character best defines what you love about this project?
I have a soft spot for the character Hope. Anyone who knows me knows I say, do what you’re doing
and do it with chest, and that’s what Hope does for me. Without spoilers I think Hope’s do it with your chest
mentality is something we all wish we had a bit more of in life, for better or worse, and learning from
those experiences for the other characters just teaches us more about our true selves.
With this piece you aim to shed a light on and show that there are so many ways that we can
engage with and rehabilitate our youth. Do you have any stories where you have seen this
happen first hand?
The simplest response for this for me is a quote that changed me when I heard it from actor I have great respect for Malachi Kirby – Educate the Ignorant. I’ve learnt over the years learning isn’t just a textbook class room thing alone, it’s the experience we are willing to share and willing to hear from. Real support can only be given when you know the specifics of what’s actually wrong. I’m 29 now, but even when I was 16/17 there was that pressure to just be good and then be celebrated thereafter I can only imagine that it’s worst for the younger generation post Covid who don’t know what it means to “just be good” and are trying to the best of their knowledge to survive.
What do you think older generations can do better to support young people?
More safe spaces to have those conversations will help a lot. And to not expected transformation overnight. these things take time but if it changes just a few lives because you gave them that time, that’s better than none and still counts as a win.
Considering your career evolution, where does this project sit on your checklist?
I didn’t think I’d get a chance to do a project like this to be honest, I thought time for me to tell a story like this had passed, so it wasn’t on my list. It’s been a humbling gift to retrace the roots that’s allowed me to have my career and to do it at Brixton House the spiritual successor of the theatre that gave me my start again. It’s so humbling. I’m grateful to be a part of this cast and this story.
I have an appearance coming up in season 2 of Wheel Of Time that my inner nerd is really happy about. You can catch me in Nida Manzoor’s feature film Polite Society which is on demand now and I just co-lead in BBC Three’s comedy short film series Man Eater directed by Rashida Seriki available now on BBC iPplayer.
How do we keep up to date with you and your work?
Rep ran at Housemates Festival at Brixton House.