Black History Month: A Conversation with Ryan Calais Cameron

Nouveau Riche are an award-winning creative movement who create culturally inclusive work across all art forms. Founded by Ryan Calais Cameron and Shavani Cameron in 2015, they produced the critically acclaimed Queens of Sheba, and Typical, and Ryan’s play Retrograde has been shortlisted for the 2019 Alfred Fagon Award.

At a time where diversity is still just a conversation topic for many organisations, we spoke Ryan Calais Cameron about the work Nouveau Riche does, and how they are taking action to tackle a lack of diversity in the industry.

Tell us about Nouveau Riche and why you founded it?

Nouveau Riche is an award-winning creative movement, headed by a team of professional performing artists and producers. Our objective is to discover, nurture and produce unique stories with a keen scope on work that is both educational and entertaining.

Birthed out of a collective frustration with the industry’s lack of diversity, Nouveau Riche have set out to create new writing that is thought provoking, challenging and culturally inclusive. The aim was and is to be the first point of call for a generation of incredible talent that were no longer willing to beg for a seat, but were willing to establish something of our own.

“Our work is bold, passionate and fearless”

Are there any particular themes that you explore through your work?

The most common theme in our work is that we tend to depart from traditional Western storytelling; experimenting with fresh contemporary, and unconventional methods, including cultural influences from the African diaspora. This will usually result in a practice that focuses on creating and engaging an emotional response from the audience. Our work is bold, passionate and fearless, butting heads with the current status quo, unflinching from the truth of what needs to be said and being incredibly brave in how we say it.

We live by two quotes:  “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”- Nina Simone, and “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”- Cesar A. Cruz

What’s next for Nouveau Riche?

We have just closed our sell-out production of Typical at the Soho Theatre, featuring Richard Blackwood. We are currently touring our award-winning production, Queens of Sheba, that will be coming back to London this November. We are also currently workshopping our next productions – For Black Boys who have considered suicide when the hue was too heavy, that will look at what it means to be a young Black man in Britain as well as taking a deeper look towards mental health and Black masculinity, and Caste-ing, a new piece taking a deeper look into the Black women and the casting process.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking for a start in the industry?

I would encourage everyone to aim towards being a master of their craft, getting your head down and staying in your own lane – as in not worrying what everyone else is doing. Finish that project that you said you were going to start last year, really getting used to seeing things through and I believe things will begin to work for you the way you intend them to.

Nouveau Riche’s play Typical will be published by Audible as part of their collection of 5 new Edinburgh Plays.

Check out Nouveau Riche’s website to see their upcoming work.