Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview Theatre Interview

Ben Duke: Paradise Lost

By | Published on Thursday 21 May 2015


Can you imagine a one man ‘Paradise Lost’ incorporating theatre, dance and spoken word…? For Ben Duke of Lost Dog Dance, it was a vision that he has turned to reality; the resulting (and brilliant-sounding) show heads to BAC next week for two performances only.

I sent some questions over to Ben, find out more about the piece, how it was created, and how the show compares to Milton’s epic poem.

CM: How much of the original epic poem’s language and story are in the show? To what extent is it an adaptation?
BD: Very little of the language remains. Milton’s language is extraordinary and when I placed it alongside my prosaic version I came off a lot worse. The piece deals with the impossibility of achieving greatness and so I sit in the shadow of Milton’s poem and don’t try to compete with it. It is an interpretation. A bastardisation. An adaptation of sorts. It is an attempt to visit some of the many places the poem takes me.

CM: How would you describe this performance…? Is it theatre? Dance? Spoken word?
BD: All three.

CM: What made you want to create a show based on ‘Paradise Lost’? Are you a Milton fan?
BD: Yes. Well, I am a ‘Paradise Lost’ fan. I haven’t read that much of his other stuff. It was a poem I studied and grew to love through that process. It is a poem I have plundered in the past for stories and ideas. But then I thought about the attempt to stage the whole piece. And the impossibility of that task appealed to me.

CM: Why did you choose to make this a one man show?
BD: It felt like the right time to make a solo. I wanted to experience the things I normally inflict on other people as a way of trying to understand my process. And then in thinking about a solo I tried to think of the most impossible thing to stage as a one man show – and the most epic thing I could think of was Paradise Lost. And so the two came together.

CM: What process did you go through in creating it?
BD: The process was a great deal of time spent reading the poem. Reading other people’s thoughts on the poem and then trying to understand what the poem meant to me and how these stories intersect with my life. I then tried to stage my favourite scenes from the poem using words or movement or combination of both.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about Lost Dog, and what it does?
BD: Lost Dog formed in 2004. When I am asked I would describe the work as dance theatre. But I try not to get too involved in defining the work. It is performance. I am interested in making good performances and I am interested in the kind of place live performance can take you that in my opinion nothing else can. The awkwardness of it, the beauty, the potential it has to really shift you. Lost Dog makes work that foregrounds the body and also attempts to frame and give context to that body with narratives and characters.

CM: What led you to a career in performance?
BD: I think like quite a lot of performers I was painfully shy, and so there was some kind of release for me on stage. I found it both embarrassing and exhilarating to perform. I got addicted to that feeling and did as much performing as I could at school and decided that I wanted to be an actor. I went to drama school where I found I was particularly interested in the movement classes and the physical theatre work. And that then led me towards dance. I didn’t realise dance was so difficult so I naively signed up for a year’s foundation course thinking that would be enough for me to join DV8 or Ballet C de la B. After that year I realised I would need more training so went to the London Contemporary Dance School. It was there I met Raquel Meseguer and together we started making work and Lost Dog was formed.

CM: What’s next for you, and Lost Dog?
BD: We are performing the solo at BAC next week. Then at Pulse Festival in Ipswich. Then at the Edinburgh Fringe In August. After that I don’t know. There is the beginning of a large project in the pipeline. Working with circus performers and dancers. People, lots of people. No more of this masochistic solo stuff.

Paradise Lost (Lies Unopened Beside Me) is on as part of The Place at Battersea Arts Centre from 26-27 May. See this page here for more info and tickets.

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