Return to home page

Q&A with Ben Duke, Artistic Director of Lost Dog

Find out more about the upcoming show A Tale of Two Cities from Lost Dog's Artistic Director, Ben Duke.

Tell us about your new show
BEN DUKE: I first read Dickens’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ when I was about 18 and I loved it although I was so stunned by the ending that I can remember exactly where I was when I read those final chapters. I thought about it as a basis for a piece about five years ago but initially dismissed it as something with too much story. I kept thinking about it and eventually the project came out of a question as to whether it was possible to create a similar emotional impact on stage. And here we are! While it’s a well-known story it’s not so familiar that I can assume people will know what is happening; in our production we imagine an alternative future for Dickens’ characters and they are looking back and trying to make sense of it.

How does your use of onstage cameras and filming techniques fit in with the text and the physical movement?
BEN DUKE: I’m interested in how cameras confuse our sense of privacy; we can talk to a camera and feel as though we are alone or just talking to one other person but in reality that sense of intimacy is a lie because what is being recorded can be seen by a lot of people.
Our production plays with the idea of a documentary as a storytelling device and the cameras are part of that. Text is the main storytelling vehicle punctuated by very strong movement language; all of this allows us to set up situations and develop characters.

Tell us about the set design and a bit about each of your dancers.

BEN DUKE: For the set design we have been working with Amber Vandenhoek. I saw Amber’s work first with the Belgian company Peeping Tom and loved the worlds her set created. Amber’s response to the project was around the idea of something new sitting inside something old and her set reflects that. It is also linked to the sense of private spaces as her set provides a space on stage that cannot be seen by the audience except via the camera.

The dancers:
Valentina Formenti - I first worked with Valentina on a research project with Protein Dance and felt that she was one of those rare dancers with an instinct for text and humour and have wanted to work with her ever since.
Hannes Langolf - has worked extensively in dance theatre - he performed in DV8’s John at the National Theatre. He’s just great and an amazingly generous artist to be in a studio with.
John Kendall - I first worked with John when he was in the London Contemporary Dance School’s postgraduate performing company Edge. John made an impression on me then as a performer who moved seamlessly between speaking and moving and it was a matter of waiting for the right project to come along so we could work together again.
Nina-Morgane Madelaine was an apprentice with Lost Dog in 2013 and is a brilliant dancer and actress (and singer). I’m so delighted to work with her on this…although Brexit has made it so unnecessarily complicated - it now feels like an act of resistance to work with non-UK based artists.
Temitope Ajose-Cutting - Temi and I began our dance journey at the irreplaceable and now discontinued Dance foundation course at Lewisham College. So I have known Temi for a long time and have followed her progress through this crazy world - again waiting for the right opportunity to work together.

What do you think audiences will particularly like about your show?
BEN DUKE: I’m interested in drawing attention to the audiences’ role as co-creators in any theatrical experience and so I think this show will have that element to it. I always hope to create work that is entertaining and moving, work that doesn’t feel hard to access but that also provokes thought in the hours, or even days after experiencing it.