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REVIVAL OF BRECHT’S THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE AT GREENWICH THEATRE

Issue date: Mon 20 March 2017

It took a disgruntled young actor to form the long-standing local company that this year celebrates its 10th anniversary with a legacy season including a revival of Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle at Greenwich Theatre from 28 March-1 April.

It took a disgruntled young actor to form the long-standing local company that this year celebrates its 10th anniversary with a legacy season including a revival of Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle at Greenwich Theatre from 28 March-1 April.

“I was disgruntled getting cast in little murder mysteries when I wanted to be involved in epic kind of stuff with a huge ensemble and big sweeping stories,” said Ricky Dukes, now 32, artistic director of the Lazarus Theatre Company. “It just wasn’t fulfilling and I asked myself, what am I doing?

“I was probably sitting in a pub somewhere moaning about it, then a friend of mine told me to put my money where my mouth is and put a show on. At first I said I can’t be doing with all that, but we had a go and it was quite an artistic success but a huge commercial flop. We lost about £4,000.”

Ricky was ready to give up again but was amazed by the number of people who contacted him asking about the next show. “It just kind of grew from there really and we did another one,” he said. “We were a bit more sensible this time, putting on a show in Camden, and a year later we did a 20-minute slot at the Camden People’s Festival.

“It was a fantastic thing with no costs run by a woman called Kerry Irvine, and we got spotted by Jasmine Cullingford, who was artistic director at the Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell. She said come and do something for us and then, blink, it’s 10 years later.”

Lazarus has a big and enthusiastic following and The Caucasian Chalk Circle is selling well. Ricky attributes their success to the company’s very different approach to classic texts.

“I think it’s how we do them,” he said. “They’re big and visual and pretty epic. There’s brilliant sound design so it’s more of an experience for people who like classics but might be a little bit scared of them. We use a lot of movement and it’s quite theatrical, so they can get something out of that as well.”

The company has already had a great success at Greenwich Theatre with a female led King Lear. “It was 2013 and being Greenwich based, down the road at Maze Hill, I got in touch with James Haddrell at the theatre and said I’d really love to do something at Greenwich,” said Ricky.

“I was a regular punter and straight away they gave us great support, asking how we could make it work. We ended up doing a rep with King Lear and Dido: Queen of Carthage. People had their doubts about a female King Lear but our response was, calm down, the world can go back to a male King Lear after this one.

“The great thing about the classics is that you can find new ways that illuminate so many other things in the play. Plays like King Lear belong to all of us, not just a few of us, so we did that in 2013 and here we are again and so pleased to be back.”

Lazarus has a core of three people who do the day-to-day work, plus a group of actors who constantly bring back new skills from other work they do.  “For Chalk Circle there’s a cast of 10 from across London although we’re trying to open it up across the UK,” said Ricky. “The great thing about Greenwich Theatre is that it’s epic but intimate as well, so you feel like you are in this huge thing, which Brecht himself always wanted from his audiences.

“When I was at university I didn’t like Brecht at all. We tried it last year at the Brockley Jack Theatre but we did it colourful with smiles and songs, and we realised that Brecht wanted you to see all the light and mechanics of theatre and that the audience was also some kind of part of it.

“You then realise that it was quite revolutionary as it was written in the revolutionary times in the Forties. Brecht was exiled from Germany at the time and he wrote it in America. And academics say he was heavily influenced by the Broadway musicals. That’s where the big stories and the big songs come from.

“People in the first five rows at Greenwich will get free juice and biscuits because Brecht really wants people to engage with his shows, and at Greenwich you’re trusted to go ahead and create the show. Everyone at the theatre gives massive support; there’s a real sense of generosity.”

James Haddrell, the theatre’s artistic and executive director, said: “Over the past decade Lazarus has built an enviable reputation for high quality classics in some of London’s most respected fringe theatres. We are delighted to be part of their ambitious legacy season and to help them bring their work to a larger scale.”

*THE Caucasian Chalk Circle, Tuesday, March 28, to Saturday, April. 1 For more details and ticket prices go to www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk. Box office: 020 8858 7755.

ENDS

For more information, images or interview requests please contact James Haddrell, Greenwich Theatre Artistic & Executive Director, on 020 8858 4447, or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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