Ricky Dukes, creative director of Lazarus Theatre Company, is excited about his year-long residency at Greenwich Theatre. And with a production of Lord of the Flies that questions gender roles due to open in March, so are we…
Artistic director Ricky Dukes never felt that working in a theatre was an option. Growing up in the Midlands, his experience of this magical realm was essentially an annual trip to the pantomime. Nevertheless, he went to university to study drama with the aim of becoming a teacher, and after being encouraged to pursue his dreams, he’s now putting on his own show at Greenwich Theatre.
In 2007, the Greenwich local set up Lazarus Theatre Company, and now he has entered into a year-long residency at Greenwich Theatre: ‘I’m so excited about doing it at my local theatre, where I’ve lived for 10 years,’ he smiles. ‘The last couple of years have been spent ramping up the company for the next step, so this really is the next big launch for us.’
For Dukes, it was important that he set himself apart from other companies and – after admitting that he hated Shakespeare in school – found a way to present the classics entirely differently, making them more contemporary.
‘I don’t mean iPhones and tweeting, but I always like there to be something about them that feels immediate and as if they are happening now,’ says Dukes. ‘I like to treat them like new plays and think about what it means to the audience to be experiencing these plays now.
‘I think there is something really powerful about these huge stories,’ says Dukes. ‘I wanted to show the cathartic experience of producing these characters. I found a group of actors who were equally nutty about it and we set about bringing it to life.
I don’t mean iPhones and tweeting, but I always like there to be something about the classics that feels immediate and as if they are happening now
‘It’s really exciting [working with Greenwich Theatre] and it feels like we’ve got there,’ he beams. ‘I’ve started building up new relationships within Greenwich now and a big thing for me is working out how we can collaborate with the local area – as it’s my home too. So schools, bars, restaurants and youth groups are all on my radar.’
Dukes is evidently very excited by the sheer size of the Greenwich Theatre and tells me how it is such an exciting place to play. ‘You can’t help but want to tell big stories in it,’ he says. ‘I think it needs challenging as well, the space. So my plan is to bring designers in to really challenge the space and do things that no-one else has done before.’
And he certainly set off the year with a bang, opening the new season with Christopher Marlowe’s epic Edward II back in January. Next up is Lord of the Flies by William Golding in which they are adapting it to be a 50/50 male and female cast.
‘We are really questioning humanity,’ explains Dukes. ‘It’s about people, not gender and in my understanding, it hasn’t been done before with this play. There have been all female and all male, but not mixed so we are really excited to explore what it means to be human, regardless of your gender.’
Dukes’ optimism and enthusiasm is contagious, but with this being such a crunch time for the arts – with budgets being cut left, right and centre, I ask him how he feels about the future of theatre: ‘I like to be able to show people that you can do it within the arts even though there is so little funding and it’s often put to the bottom of the list.
‘You might have to make personal sacrifices, but it’s possible to get to where you want – so go for it.’
Lord of the Flies runs 13-24 March at Greenwich Theatre, Crooms Hill SE10 8ES; greenwichtheatre.org.uk