When the Rhythm Starts to Play: Interview with Kevin Oliver

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Kevin Oliver

Born to lead and born to express. Born to inspire and forever create. Remember the memories where our jaws would drop whenever we were all engulfed by something truly soul-stealing? Whether it was watching a ballerina perform complicated routines on the stage, watching an actor step into the shoes of a renowned character who’s getting ready to enrapture the audience with his performance or simply looking in awe, a set of models walk down the ramp looking as magnificent as ever.

 

This is exactly the effect Kevin Oliver has on all of us. Having directed, choreographed several well-known plays, musicals and fashion shows here in the U.A.E, ‘Shakuntala’ and the ‘Lion King’ to name a few, what really strikes me the most is that, the music never seems to stop playing…as long as the impresario, Kevin Oliver, is around. He isn’t going anywhere, ladies and gentleman. If he is here to enrapture our hearts and minds with his innate creativity and talent, sit back, watch and be prepared to have your minds blown…in three. Two. and one!

 

How did your journey in the field of performing arts, entertainment and fashion begin? What made you realize that this is what you are meant to do?
I think I was born to be a performer. Born to be a musician and composer… Born to teach and hopefully inspire. Creativity is what lets me live and breathe…. And I am truly blessed that God has allowed me to follow my dreams. The journey began when I was 4 years old in India when I got the chance to play the big bad wolf in a school play…and the journey never stopped. Fashion shone its spotlight on me when I was in high school when my bigger sister who was trying her hand out in modelling made me choreograph a full fashion show in a local school theatre…I think I was all of 14 or 15 years old.

 

Whether it is composing, coming up with an idea for a new play, or getting into the element of a character, please explain to us what your creative process is like.
Composing music and lyrics for a song has to be in the correct moment of a day…. Which could be literally any time of the day or night…. I start with the lyrics and then I work out the melody – first in my head- and then on the piano… I studied the piano from the age of 5. What I have learnt over the years is that you really can’t force a melody or a lyric line…. you have to let it find you… sometimes I just pen a few words or lines and just leave it on my kitchen table… a week later. I go back and finish the song, sometimes it takes a month… sometimes it takes just a few seconds. When I wrote my first rock opera which was composed of 22 songs… it was over a period of just 3 months! The 2nd musical play took me a longer time… the plot line was complicated and the songs had to tell a story within itself….

 

Directing a play is such fun….. I read so many of them but find the urge to direct a production so rare…. The play has to grab me within the first few minutes and I have to see mental pictures of how the scenes come together – with light and sound effects…. It’s almost like watching a movie – just in my head.

 

What would you consider the most challenging aspect of creating something new? Especially in performing arts?
I love the challenge of creating something new…. Sometimes I truly envy my friends who are designers who with a stroke of a pencil create some of the most beautiful clothes…. Wish I was as talented….
For me when I meet a designer who inspires me- I take his or her inspiration for the clothes and try and interpret the idea from where it came- and put it on the runway…. That’s my role as the Show Director.

 

In your own words, how does fashion and music influence and compliment one another? Do you believe there are some significant commonalities between these elements?
LOVE THAT QUESTION. In my crazy creative world… I truly believe that 3 elements must come together to produce a perfect runway show…. Something that people can remember and get inspired by. When I go into a fashion show I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses. My strengths being that I come from a world of theatre and music……so I have to blend it into my fashion world…. When one sits to watch a show directed by me – you have to be moved from the first note of the music which sets the mood for the designer to show his inspirations. The first light – be it a backlight that just bathes a model’s hair, shoulders and back… to a pool of blue lights that slowly come on to create a night sky…. Everything is so important…

I wonder, why do some designers just light the entire ramp and the audience as well in bright white light that creates such an impersonal note and show… When you enter a show – you enter the designer’s mind and it’s almost a personal relationship between you, the audience and the designer who lets you into their world. But these are just my thoughts and finally as a Show Director, I do follow the creative head’s brief.

 

From a director’s perspective, what are some of the qualities that you look out for, when it comes to working with talents from various creative backgrounds?
If it’s a play then the actor has to grab me with their first lines- could be the tone of voice…. The look… a pause… the pitch –
With a model – I love diversity- I love confidence – I love long lean lines – clothes are created to flow in a certain way and the model has to be a frame on which it is draped…

 

Wearing a plethora of creative hats, was there something more that you wanted to achieve?
Yes…. I have done theatre- I have done music – I have performed all over the world…. I have directed all over the world…. The next dream is of course directing a film….. so exciting – so different… but, it’s so much a dream right now.

 

Is there any project that you are currently working on? What do you want the audience to keep an eye out for?
I have so many projects I am working on. In fashion- there are international designers who are showing their latest collections in Dubai and I am grateful for the chance to get to meet and direct their show. I have a new Fashion Week coming up in December which I am completely responsible for – 12 of the most exciting designers showcase collections which I am directing – a challenge for me and something new…every show has to have its own DNA. Musically I am working with Dubai Cares on a project for EXPO and my choir of 25 amazing student singers are opening the event. More projects of which I cannot talk about right now, but so exciting! This year 2021 is so special and is bringing so much creativity in my life and I am just waiting to jump- both legs forward- into whatever is thrown my way.

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