Saturday, 2 June 2012

Ben Okri’s The Comic Destiny

Scottish Storytelling Centre
Edinburgh Festival Fringe 
Tuesday 14 – Sunday 26 August 2012

Lazzi bring their adaptation of Booker Prize winning author Ben Okri’s The Comic Destiny to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, followed by a London run at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith.

Lazzi Artistic Director David W W Johnstone’s new adaptation takes Ben Okri’s surreal fable – a world of patriarchs, skeletons and imps, asylum escapees and a young couple seeking more loving arguments – and uses it to explore the nature of storytelling and creative inspiration.

  • Major international author Ben Okri has chosen to work with the relatively unknown yet acclaimed experimental company Lazzi. 
  • Ben Okri will be present at the opening, and at an after-show reception. He will also be available for interview about this project. 
  • Lazzi will join Ben Okri on stage at the Edinburgh International Book Festival at 12pm on Tuesday, 21 August. 
  • The production has already secured a post-Fringe London run at Riverside Studios. 

The Edinburgh-based Lazzi company is dedicated to bold experimentation and a highly improvisational style. Lazzi has gained a reputation for innovation with its striking and original theatre work. Previous productions include Witkacy Idiota (2005), and Oresteia (2008). Lazzi bring their trademark zany yet soulful humour to Ben Okri’s abstract story, weaving a variety of influences, drawn from Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy to Dada, Grotowski and Kantor. With their ability to embrace the surreal with an affectionate lightness, Lazzi are well-placed to interpret Ben Okri's strange story for the stage. The production is staged with a simplicity typical of Lazzi: minimal yet beautiful lighting and a bare stage, with a cast of three actors, in the intimate space of Scotland's premier year-round storytelling venue at the Netherbow.

Director David W W Johnstone says, ‘Lazzi likes to delve into the rough and raw edges of theatre. Whether working with comedy or tragedy, I like to ask the audience to experience a courageous experiment on the part of the performers. When Ben Okri approached me to think about adapting his piece for the stage I took a long time to work out how to go about it. Then I realised what the piece was about – for me – it was about the source of creative vision. What does it mean to create? What is it that holds us back? Are we trapped in our own methods? I wanted Lazzi to take Ben’s piece and show how the borderline between actor and character can dissolve in unexpected ways. The characters of the piece are gloriously oblivious to our attempts to restrain them – the process of adaptation itself must be released into their hands.’

Expect a little chaos and lots of soul, as Lazzi lovingly takes on the characters of Ben Okri’s imagination.

Previous productions:

‘...the performance has a physical, aural and visual intensity that burns itself onto the mind. …one of the most compelling and haunting pieces of theatre created in Scotland this past year’ Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman
‘...intense, demanding and quite possibly the most adventurous and unique piece of theatre ever seen in Cumbernauld.’  The Herald

Witkacy Idiota
'…it’s a sheer joy to come across a performance so sweetly, confidently and unashamedly absurdist as this fine 70-minute tribute to the life and work of the troubled Polish artist, playwright and thinker, Stanislaw Witkiewicz. … a simple but surprisingly beautiful-looking show that makes powerful use of coloured light, shadow and movement.' Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman


Lazzi is based in Edinburgh. It operates as a form of arts lab drawing performers from different disciplines. Working on The Comic Destiny project are dancer Charlotte Jarvis, who featured in Lazzi's Aurora Borealis (Dancebase, 2008) and actor Robert Williamson who stars in Lazzi's recent adaptation of Gogol's Dead Souls (2012).

David W W Johnstone is the founder and artistic director of Lazzi. He was the protégé of legendary Polish actor/director Leonidas Dudarew-Ossetynski, and through this connection he also studied with Ryszard Cieslak, leading actor with Grotowski’s theatre. Other work ensued with Georges Bigot and Ariane Mnouchkine of Le Theatre du Soleil in Paris. He was born in Washington State, USA, and has lived in Scotland since 1991.

Ben Okri has published 10 novels, including the Booker Prize winning The Famished Road, as well as collections of poetry, short stories and essays. His work has been translated into more than 20 languages. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has been awarded the OBE as well as numerous international prizes, including the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa, the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction and the Chianti Rufino-Antico Fattore. He is a Vice-President of the English Centre of International PEN and was presented with a Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum. He was born in Nigeria and lives in London. Ben Okri’s latest collection of essays, A Time for New Dreams is published by Random House.

The Comic Destiny is a story from Tales of Freedom, by Ben Okri, published by Rider Books in 2009.

Both David W W Johnstone and Ben Okri are available for interviews relating to this project.

The Scottish Storytelling Centre is the world’s first purpose-built centre for storytelling, right on the Royal Mile. The award-winning Netherbow Theatre and Storytelling Court spaces host live storytelling, literature, theatre, children’s and visual arts events.

Riverside Studios aims to be London’s pre-eminent space for risk, inspiration and creativity in the arts and media, in a setting which is energetic, internationalist and friendly. It is a unique arts and media centre on the banks of the Thames in Hammersmith, comprising two main performance studios, a cinema, a TV studio and production galleries, numerous offices and a large contemporary Restaurant and Bar, a Film Cafe and River Terrace. The theatre programme presents a mix of co-productions and international visiting work, often at the cutting edge of performance.

Performance dates and times:

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012
Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
The Netherbow, 43-45 High Street, EH1 1SR3
Tuesday 14 – Sunday 26 August, 7pm (75mins)  £10/£8 
Tickets and information 0131 556 9579
Opening night post-show reception, with Ben Okri, Tuesday 14 August 8.30pm

For ages 12+

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Box Office +44 (0)131 226 0000 

Lazzi will also join Ben Okri on stage at the Edinburgh International Book Festival at 12pm on Tuesday, 21 August.

Riverside Studios, London 
Crisp Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9RL

Tuesday 4 September – Sunday 9 September, 7.30pm (75mins) £17/£15
Matinees at 2pm on Wednesday & Saturday
Opening night post-show reception, with Ben Okri, Tuesday 4 September 9pm

Lazzi contacts:
David WW Johnstone 
0131 447 3077 / 07837978379


Image of Ben Okri