Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview Theatre Interview

Karena Johnson: Chasing Rainbows

By | Published on Friday 14 June 2019

Opening at Hoxton Hall this week is a fascinating sounding piece with a compelling dramatic narrative and physical aerial theatre element. ‘Chasing Rainbows’, written by Oneness Sankara, deals with the challenges of expectations, chasing your dreams and the cost of being a role model through the experiences of a female astronaut.

Hoxton Hall’s AD and CEO Karena Johnson commissioned and directs the piece. I arranged a quick chat to find out more.

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about the content of the play? Where does the narrative take us…?
KJ: The play is set in the international space station 260 miles above earth. We meet Ama, a high achieving astronaut from Trinidad, as she is composing an address to a school back on earth after receiving some life changing news.

CM: How would you describe the play in terms of genre? What style of piece is it?
KJ: The play is a drama, realism. There is a physical theatre element with the use aerial that gives a different dimension to the play.

CM: What themes does the piece explore?
KJ: The themes are about family relationships, the sacrifices of reaching for ones dreams and your dreams and the expectations of motherhood.

CM: What do you like about the play?
KJ: I like the poetry of the play. The lyrical writing style is beautiful and evocative.

CM: What made you want to direct it?
KJ: I commissioned the play so was always clear I would direct it. I was inspired by a real experience meeting a young mother on a flight back from Romania. She worked in London and her children lived with their father. She was upset. This story was resonant, and I wanted to explore a separation of mother and child.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the writer of the play?
KJ: Oneness is a multitalented, writer, poet, lyricist and musician. I had worked with her on another project and wanted to find an opportunity to work with her again.

CM: Can you tell us about the cast?
KJ: Both performers are new to me. Donna Berlin is a very experienced actress and physical performer and Emmanuella Toure is doing her first professional play.

CM: You’ve been AD of Hoxton Hall since 2015 – what do you feel you have achieved since then?
KJ: Re-establishing a beautiful and original performance space for audiences. Building a new audience from scratch.

CM: What have been the highlights of this time?
KJ: My season Female Parts at Hoxton Hall, working with 100 women over 3 months both on and off the stage.

CM: What aims do you have for it in the future?
KJ: To continue to develop Hoxton Hall and put it on the map. It’s a great hidden gem and I would love more people to experience its charm and the inventive programming.

CM: How did you come to this career? Was it something you always aspired to? What do you love about it?
KJ: I have attended the theatre from a young age as my Mum was a keen attender. I was lucky to have been involved with youth theatre at Oval House and drama at school. It never really occurred to me to do anything else, I guess it is a vocation. I love that my job is different everyday and I sometimes get the chance to play and get paid for it.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
KJ: I am working on developing an exciting new season of work in 2020 so do check the Hoxton Hall website for announcements.

Chasing Rainbows will be performed at Hoxton Hall from 25 Jun-20 Jul. Find more information and book online right about here.

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Photo: Sharron Wallace