Interview: Athena Kugblenu on her show Shaking Her Class
We caught up with Athena Kugblenu ahead of her hotly anticipated new show Shaking Her Class, coming to Soho Theatre, 16-21 May.
Tickets available here! PLUS: Athena’s brand-new BBC Radio 4 special Magnifying Class is out now – listen here on BBC Sounds.
Tell us about your show coming up at Soho Theatre – what should your audience expect?
Lots of banter, because I love improv, so I do go off on tangents. But mainly a comedic take on class in the UK and how it become meaningless, especially when you consider how it intersects with race or background. For example, Premier League footballers are obscenely wealthy, but do we consider Wayne Rooney to be upper class? I use stories from my personal life to try to unpick the unfairness and contradictions of the class system.
Who or what are your influences?
Mostly my opinions! I have strong opinions on things and start my comedy writing normally from a place of frustration, or curiosity. A lot of my comedy comes from a strong reaction to something I’ve seen happening in the world, often a reaction that isn’t popularly reflected. So, I try to think about why that might be, maybe it’s because I’m wrong and in thinking about all that, jokes come out as part of the process.
What advice would you give to those starting out in comedy?
Have a ‘say yes’ approach to things until your career gets so good you have the luxury of saying ‘no’. Also, watch as much comedy as possible, even stuff you don’t like. Become a comedy geek. Get into it all, improv, circus, one liners etc. I think it all helps.
Who or what inspired you to do comedy and move away from your previous career?
The glass ceiling I felt that I was up against in my old job was a great incentive to find another way to make a living! But I am inspired by storytellers who create art that makes me think, anyone from Toni Morrison to Lauryn Hill. I thought if I could emulate what they do in some small way in my art form that would be a form of success.
What are your favourite London haunts?
- Roti Joupa in North Clapham. Very authentic Indo-Caribbean cuisine. It’s opening hours are very hit and miss so you just have to show up whenever and pray that they are open
- The whole of Wood Green – something about this area, it has everything you need, but is still very un-gentrified and messy. When they renamed the cinema Hollywood Green about 20 years ago, it cemented its place in my heart.
- Drummond Street in Euston – The best Indian restaurants in London are on this street. I will not recommend one, go try them all and pick your favourite
- British Library in Kings Cross – I used to take my thermos flask of coffee and work here when I was in a house share and didn’t have a good writing space at home. It’s close to the Wellcome Collection which always has free exhibitions that you can use to procrastinate whilst you write. It can sometimes get crowded so I used to have to get there early, but it is worth it. I think all the books in the building radiate productive energy
- Peckhamplex Cinema – the best cinema in London. Independent and affordable.