Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Lazzi take The Comic Destiny to Riverside Studios, London

Lazzi presents Ben Okri’s The Comic Destiny

Press release

Riverside Studios, London
Tuesday 4 – Sunday 9 September 2012 7.30pm, mat at 2pm on Saturday
Press night Tuesday 4 September, with reception with Ben Okri

‘A truly extraordinary and rich, and wild, and fascinating production. I am tempted to call it the theatre of risk.’
- Ben Okri
(commenting on the opening performance at the Edinburgh Fringe)

Fresh from this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Lazzi bring their production of Ben Okri’s The Comic Destiny to Riverside Studios, London.

Ben Okri’s story confronts the violence and the predatory nature of our world through a cast of characters each with their own disturbing histories and personalities. It is an intense, surreal piece with touches of dark humour throughout: ‘…the play has a serpentine narrative that tantalisingly encrypts meaning’ (Three Weeks). Edinburgh reviewers have particularly noted the high standard of the acting in the piece and the experimental approach of the company: ’acting power and a boldness of experimentation that is seriously impressive' (Broadway Baby), 'smashing performances… innovative’ (The Scotsman), ‘the acting was faultless and utterly convincing’ (Three Weeks).

Ben Okri approached Director David WW Johnstone to adapt The Comic Destiny in 2010. He was looking for a director prepared to take risks, for a company that might bring a fresh insight to his piece. His original story has been abridged for this adaptation, and despite the apparent improvisational nature of the acting, all words spoken on stage are taken directly from his text. No one performance is quite the same, and the process of adaptation appears to happen afresh each night before the audience’s eyes.

Lazzi weave a variety of influences, drawn from Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, and commedia to Dada, Grotowski and Kantor, and bring elements of all of these to Ben Okri’s abstract world of patriarchs, skeletons and imps, asylum escapees and a young couple seeking more loving arguments.

Director David WW 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. Our piece starts with the actors themselves gathering to rehearse. How will they adapt and interpret the text? I wanted Lazzi to take Ben Okri’s story and show how the borderline between actor and character can dissolve in unexpected ways. The characters of the piece can be gloriously oblivious to our attempts to restrain them – the process of adaptation itself must be released into their hands. Further insight was gained from comparing the relentless suffering in the myth of Sisyphus, where he is forced to roll a stone up a hill only for it to endlessly fall back down, with the film of Laurel & Hardy attempting to deliver a piano and having to push it up endless steps, with the inevitable comic consequences (http://youtu.be/UWm0nXJYLmk). Both have a futility, yet one torments us, the other makes us laugh. Both speak of the human condition – and slapstick is a somewhat violent art. Navigating the line between pessimism and optimism is a fragile path and our piece explores this human dilemma.’

Ben Okri will be present at the opening, and at an after-show reception. Both Ben Okri and David WW Johnstone are available for interviews relating to this project.

The Comic Destiny is a novella from Tales of Freedom, by Ben Okri, published by Rider Books (Random House) in 2009.