Friday, 14 September 2012

In the works...

Qx : a Quixotic Rapture !   "The Hero is he who exalts Good... beyond Reality !"

"The Great Achievement, Sancho, is to lose one's Reason for no reason.  For if you go truly mad for a good reason... then, you feel nothing.  Find strength in your weakness."

"I do not have to Win at this.  I only have to Be it."

Don Quixote

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Lovely preview feature in the Chronicle:

Man Booker Prizewinning author Ben Okri’s novella The Comic Destiny has been adapted for Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios. He tells Robert Cumber how it explores the nature of storytelling, and why there’s nothing better than a good walk to get the creative juices flowing.

WHEN Ben Okri first set eyes on David Johnstone, at a book signing in Edinburgh, he knew he was the man to direct his surreal fable The Comic Destiny.
The founder of experimental theatre company Lazzi was last in a long queue of fans but the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Famished Road claims he instantly realised there was something different about him.
“I looked at him and got a good feeling. I asked him to call me and that began a conversation, including a long walk in Hyde Park,” explains the Nigerian-born author, who lives in Little Venice.
“I like his spirit. He seemed to be someone open to surprise and without a fixed view of what theatre should be. There was just something unusual about him.”

Three years later, Johnstone’s adaptation of the novella, from Okri’s short story collection Tales of Freedom, has just finished a successful run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe ahead of Tuesday’s opening at the Riverside Studios.

Okri describes the story, of a young couple and an asylum escapee among other ‘afflicted’ characters, in their search for the same mysterious room, as one of the hardest he has ever had to write. He always thought it would make a good play but admits it was never going to be easy to adapt, which is why he had to find the right person for the job.

“It was a forbidding task and David was intimidated by it at first because it’s not an easy text to pry open,” he says.

“It’s written very simply but it took me many, many years to write and people who have read it tend to find it difficult to grasp what’s going on.
“Every piece of writing is a very intense process, but The Comic Destiny was one of the most fraught and long-lasting processes.
“It was hard to let go (of the finished work).”
Once Okri had chosen Johnstone, he was happy to leave him to his own devices and is delighted with the result, which he describes as a ‘meeting between two visions’.
“It’s extraordinarily rich, strange, mysterious and full of energy. What you get is a different play every night, influenced by everything from the theatre of the absurd to Laurel and Hardy,” he says.
Like most of Okri’s work, The Comic Destiny explores the roots of inspiration and creativity.
He describes writing as being ‘woven’ into his life but admits the process of ‘releasing the possibility of an idea’ is far from easy.
While many authors claim physical work helps get the creative juices flowing, and the acclaimed Japanese author Haruki Marukami swears by running, Okri takes a more relaxed approach.
“Long walks are a big part of the writing process for me. I couldn’'t think while running – that’s for athletes – but walking is just the right pace to allow thoughts to bubble to the surface,” he says.
The Comic Destiny is at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios from Tuesday to Sunday, September 9. Tickets, priced £15 to £17, are available at or from the box office on 020 8237 1111

link to article online

a serpentine narrative that tantalisingly encrypts meaning...


An adaptation of Ben Okri's book 'The Comic Destiny', this show is a gritty experimental piece that confronts the turbulence of our world. The show flickers between the rehearsal process and the finished product to highlight the softening boundaries between actor and character. Indeed by displaying the effect characterisation and performance has upon them, the audience is forced to feel similarly affected. Consequently the play has a serpentine narrative that tantalisingly encrypts meaning. The acting was faultless and utterly convincing, particularly David Johnstone's presentation of a bipolar lunatic that alters between timidity and wickedness. The philosophical subject matter is at times a little exhausting but only because of its sheer profundity and depth.

tw rating 4/5 [Paige Wilson]

Some press snippets on The Comic Destiny

'smashing performances... innovative… arresting but oblique... beautifully lit...  The Scotsman

'acting power and a boldness of experimentation that is seriously impressive' Broadway Baby

'the play has a serpentine narrative that tantalisingly encrypts meaning. The acting was faultless and utterly convincing' Three Weeks

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 ( 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.