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Lazarus Theatre are bringing THE TAMING OF THE SHREW to Jack Studio Theatre 18 July – 5 August 2017, followed by EDWARD II to The Tristan Bates Theatre, 22 August – 9 September 2017.
We’ve been keeping a keen eye on them since giving them four star reviews for their past two shows at Brockley Jack: Caucasian Chalk Circle (Feb 2016) and John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (Nov 2016).
The Caucasian Chalk Circle
(Brockley Jack Studio 2016 and Greenwich Theatre 2017)
Production image by Adam Trigg
We chat with Artistic Director, Ricky Dukes about Lazarus Theatre’s 2017 season of three plays
The season has been exploring legacy and the plays that changed the theatrical and wider world as a whole. Dukes explains: “The theme of Legacy first came to us when thinking about how we could celebrate our tenth year. Brecht’s work more than any other has changed the way we can create, explore and present theatre”.
They transferred their 2016 production of Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle from The Jack Studio to The Greenwich Theatre this year, before starting to look at Shakespeare’s well known ‘problem play’ The Taming of the Shrew and Marlowe’s Edward II.
With regard to Taming of the Shrew Dukes says: “It's a play that seems more immediate and has more of a living legacy than revolutionary. It examines who we are, what our society demands and what is acceptable in terms of gender roles and gender stereotypes. It deals with some pretty shocking levels of abuse, behaviour we find offensive and downright wrong today, at the same time it can be incredibly funny.”
Lazarus final offering is Malowe’s Edward II which Dukes explains: “It’s arguably one of the first gay plays ever written at the dawn of the early modern drama period. Marlowe changed the dramatic form forever. His gutsy portrayal of a gay king has a legacy that lives and breathes today. Currently LGBTQ rights are being fought for across the world, and although Edward’s downfall is not entirely due to his sexuality, it can be seen as a form of prejudice.”
All three plays and very many of our greatest classical plays have an incredibly powerful impact on the world we live in today. Dukes notes: “A production of Julius Caesar (at Public theatre, NY) in which the title character resembles a certain Mr Trump has just caused a storm in New York. Shakespeare was writing about the turmoil of democracy, the perils of politics and the possible outcomes of revolution, is there anything more powerfully contemporary than that?”
Lazarus approach to Brecht’s THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE
Working on Chalk Circle was truly a revelation for Lazarus company and for Dukes personally, as a director: “Firstly as a process, Brecht demands you strip back those elements that we often use to fill out character or bulk out a scene. His method doesn’t come naturally to most actors or creatives, but when you have worked to find the honesty, the function and the truth there is something wonderfully economic, (if not exhausting) refreshing and open about the work.”
Dukes firmly believes that “Brecht’s work more than any other has changed the way we can create, explore and present theatre.” Like Shakespeare, Brecht examines global and human themes. However, Brecht’s plays asks us what we would do, he allows us to engage in filling the blanks, to be empowered. Dukes explains: “ – to remember we have free will, albeit in our own social circumstance and above all not to be fate driven, “everything is mapped out for me” “I don’t have a choice” passive participation. To us that felt incredibly contemporary”.
At the risk of dumping Brecht’s historical setting they chose to set The Caucasian Chalk Circle in the present day. Curiously they found that it took on “echoes of the flooding in the North of England (2016 production) and it suddenly takes on an air of Brexit in our 2017 production at The Greenwich. If we were staging the play today it would be relevant to residents in West London who have suffered the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower.”
“The impact when watching a lively mid-week matinee of 400 school children disgusted by one of the female character’s actions and the way she is treated by Azdak, the Judge of Justice, was palpable and one that will stay with me forever, we don’t need to tell the audience what to think, merely present a world in which they can have an opinion and one in which they can be empowered and change the world. “
Lazarus reimagining of Caucasian Chalk Circle with a cast of 10 was vibrant, loud and very watchable. They wanted to bring “colour, chaos, joy and theatricality and to share these great plays with as many artists and audience members as we can”. Money is a huge issue when working with larger numbers but they love working with a large ensemble. Dukes believes “10 heads are better than one, the dynamic of a range of experiences, backgrounds and voices is incredibly exciting and rewarding.” He dreams that one day he would “have a year-long ensemble of twenty actors, examining, building and performing together, experiencing these plays together and with our audience.”
Lazarus approach to Shakespeare’s TAMING OF THE SHREW
Turning to Shakespeare’s 'problem play' The Taming of the Shrew with the directorial debut of Sara Reimers, her Shrew promises to be modern, fast paced and full of revolutionary spirit. Dukes explains that Reimers has wanted to tackle The Taming of the Shrew for some time: “Sara has an incredible precise eye when it comes to the dramaturgy of a play. What makes her even more exciting is that she sees the plays in performance not just from an academic view. We need to get them off the page, inject them with life and make them palatable for artists and audience alike. Sara has written about and practically examined Shrew for some time, her playfulness and readiness to jump both feet first into the muddy swell of the plays’ politics is inspiring.”
Reimers is a feminist but not the bra burning kind. Dukes says: “Do expect the plays female characters to give as good as they get, we aren’t shying away from the 'problems' the play offers but we are also passionate about immercing our audience into the chaos, the jollity and revolutionary feel of Shakespeare’s unrelenting, fast paced and contemporary tragicomedy.” Rachel Dingle, Shrew’s Designer has set the play in a festival tent, with audience given wristbands, offered cans of lager and encouraged to sit on the grass, think Glastonbury on a hot summers afternoon. Wellies, mud, music and mayhem with bite. I for one can’t wait.
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW William Shakespeare
The Jack Studio Theatre 18 July – 5 August 2017
Presented by Lazarus Theatre company
Also showing this year:
EDWARD II by Christopher Marlowe
The Tristan Bates Theatre
22 August – 9 September 2017
All rights reserved:
London Pub Theatres Magazine Limited July 2017
Artistic Director of Lazarus Theatre