Full name is Rahja Shakiry.
I trained as a theatre designer uh for my second career. I started off as an analyst, funny enough I did a maths degree, cause culturally that you don’t do theatre. We are not, sort of familiar with theatre. Umm… And um so I did a maths degree worked as an analyst for a few years, but I couldn’t kick the arts out of me. So I went back, and did the foundation and I tried all sorts of avenues of different forms of art be it sort of sculpture, be it you know, fine art, be it photography… And umm… over a conversation with a friend of mine, who was an artist actually, that we were studied in Brighton actually for our first degree, and umm… and theatre popped into my head and it kind of fitted everything that I actually did, without realizing it’s got a title. So I went and retrained basically, as a designer and have been doing this for about 20 years now.
When you’re designing a set, you’re creating a world that’s gonna feed into… Well, it’s kinda, it’s you looking at the visual clues of this world you’re creating. So whatever you place there and the significance of it, I think obviously that needs to echo, throughout. So when somebody, when you’re reading a script and you’re siting and kinda going “ok, what’s this person, you know, what’s the character, what’s the environment, what’s the world we’re living in” and ummm and to take from that. But I find that the same when you’re sort of working with people. You know, even discussions with somebody on a bus you will be sitting there and going ok, you’re picking up little things even as you listen to them having a conversation with somebody. (laughs) And I think to me that’s really fascinating. So it just.. it kind of, it makes you realize actually, you know, we’re all human, we have the same problems no matter what colour, race or whatever, sex, you might, you know (laughs) whatever we are.
So the first project was the ‘Angina Monologues’ that I worked on with Spare Tyre. So I met their on ensemble, which is their elders, and that was in a church up in somewhere near Camden I think. They had such a, um... I guess, a hunger to kind of produce work and, of life, really. And how much they wanted to share about themselves, which was… which was amazing cause I mean, any rehearsal room that you walk into, everybody’s always quite guarded, I mean I know people are nervous and stuff like that but I mean, we all are on the first day. But umm and I knew they’d worked together before, but there were something more about that… that company and the group and how everyone was sort of there and prepared to kind of give a hundred and ten percent.
When you work on costume, it’s vital to be in, to see how what the movements are and what the bodies and what the requirements are needing. It’s always really interesting going into a rehearsal room because you get to see the limitations as well as the amazing, kind of development of of a piece. You would sit there and you go “oh god I really wasn’t aware that, you know, this could happen or this character would be, you know, would take it that way.”
I’ve always been allowed to kind of push and experiment and deliver sort of to the highest quality with all the budget constraints, and all the cast, you know, all the artists sort of facing all the companies. You know, you sit there and you kinda go “actually if it’s not good enough, it’s not… it’s not gonna go out there.” And I think this’s what is wonderful about here, it’s just the quality of the work.
I guess the support that they all give each other. Umm… That’s what’s really lovely to see. Umm… It is always been the case, I mean the company itself is very supportive of all the artists and ensemble. And I think that’s… that’s why I, we all keep returning to Spare Tyre, because we all feel like as a company itself as… is ethos, I guess, is is to kind of to be supportive of the work and the people themselves.
I always feel it’s sort of it’s led by their performance, by the artists. Umm… It’s not... it’s not, they have an agenda, I don’t feel. And to be honest with you it’s basically if you, what you put forward is what they try and encourage and pull. It’s not “you’re doing this and we are doing this and do it this way.” There is none of that. And that’s what’s, you know, that’s what’s amazing about this company. It is about what you offer or what you’re willing to offer them... that they take from you and kind of shape it and create something wonderful with it. Umm it’s not about “we got this play, here we go, learn this, do this, move that way” none of that. (laugh) So yeah.. that’s what’s great about it.
There are all these umm… aspects, I guess that, you know, we are familiar with and that we can pull on and try and push people to get more out of life, to get more experiences and to kind of give more. Because I think that the danger is that a lot of people do feel that they’ve got nothing else to contribute. There is not…, there is nothing, that there is nobody who even listens to them. And I think, you know, Spare Tyre really does give people that platform to kind of express themselves.
Rajha is a set and costume designer working nationally and internationally. She’s worked on several of our productions; one of the earliest was Still Life Dreaming. In 2018 Rajha became one of our Associate Artists.
Rajha spoke to us about how she became a designer and what it’s like to work with us.