Linbury Prize winner Khadija Raza talks to Voice about the excitement and variation her job as a set and costume designer offers her.
Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
My name is Khadija Raza and I’m a set and costume designer working in theatre.
What does your job involve? Give us the typical outline of a day?
My job has a lot of varied roles/responsibilities. As a designer I read and analyse the script/text that I’m starting with – in collaboration with a director – and design the world of the play through sketches, scale models and technical drawings. I also have to help realise the production, working alongside production managers and stage managers. Depending on the scale/ budget of the production, the realising part can be more hands on and I may have to source or make costumes, props and set pieces. What is consistent within all these roles is collaboration and communication. Those are the key aspects of my job I would say. There are so many different facets of this job that there is actually no ‘typical’ day. I’m often working on multiple projects that are all at different stages; so one day I might be attending rehearsals, or another day I might be model making for another show or buying costumes.
What’s great about your job?
No two days are the same and no two jobs are the same. I get to imagine new worlds for every show I work on, and try to find new and exciting ways of telling stories. The feeling of watching an audience connect with and enjoy a story that you have helped to tell is like no other.
What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?
As much as I love my job, it can be very tiring. The long hours can be physically and emotionally draining because you invest so much of yourself into each production. Also, sometimes it can be a lonely job. A big chunk of the job involves working by myself and sometimes you desperately want someone to bounce ideas off of!
What are the highlights of your career to date?
I haven’t been in the industry for very long but the best and most humbling moments have been being one of the Linbury Prize winners and being nominated for a Stage Debut Award for best designer.
How did you get into an arts job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
I have been extremely lucky and have never had worked outside of the arts. I went to university and did a BA at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and have been working in theatre since I graduated. The Linbury Prize has been a great platform to get my work out there.
Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge so far has been trying to keep a healthy balance between work and life, and finding a way to manage the high levels of stress. The solution so far has been reaching out to friends and more experienced designers for help and advice when I need it. And allowing myself a break.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?
Again, I haven’t been in the industry for a very long time, so I can’t say I’ve noticed any huge changes, but I would say that there seems to be a bit more attention being paid to the lack of diversity that is very apparent in theatre. But we still have a very long way to go.
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
I would say: ‘You’ll never guess what you’ll be doing in seven years time but it’s better than anything you could dream of.’
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
I think a lot of people don’t know exactly what jobs in theatre are like or what designers do, so I would absolutely encourage people to explore the role of a designer, as well as all the countless other jobs in theatre. Then, if you’re really interested, take a look at courses and degrees that will help you get the skills you need. And finally, I would say passion and determination are so important. So if you really love it, you’ll be just fine.
TheatreCraft, the UK’s largest careers event for 16-30 year-olds seeking an off-stage theatre job, returns to the Waldorf Hilton Hotel on Monday 19 November. To sign up for your free place, go to theatrecraft.org