Lampedusa by Anders Lustgarten is a Citizens Theatre production in association with Wonder Fools. It will be staged in the Circle Studio (8 – 18 November) following our recent production of The Coolidge Effect at the Tron Theatre and Traverse Theatre in September.
For one of our very first projects as a company we used an extract of David Greig’s The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, switching its focus from rural Border ballads to urban city clubs and presenting this work as part of Playwright Studio Scotland’s Crossing the Lines at the Arches. Lampedusa by Anders Lustgarten is the first time that Wonder Fools will work on a full production using another writer’s existing text.
The project also acts as a culmination of my training as an assistant director at the Citizens. I have been lucky to work with Dominic Hill (Oresteia: This Restless House and Hay Fever) and Gareth Nicholls (Blackbird) as an assistant at the Citizens, in addition to working with Andrew Panton (The Broons, Sell A Door) and Max Webster (The Winter’s Tale, the Lyceum) outside the Citz, and this production will see me put that learning into practice.
The play itself is broadly about the migrant crisis and explores this subject through two intersecting but seemingly unconnected monologues.
Stefano is an Italian fisherman, whose heritage and family trade has been fishing. He’s made his living at sea, and feels most alive there. But following the financial crisis, the work dried up. Unemployed for three years, and in order to support his wife and two young children, Stefano now earns his living at sea but with a very different harvest. Lampedusa is an Italian island and the gateway to Europe for a lot of North African refugees. It is Stefano’s job to pick out bodies from the sea of the people who have not survived the journey.
The second story follows Denise, a mixed-race Chinese/British woman from Leeds who works for a payday loan company in order to pay for her university degree. It is her second attempt at higher education, having had to drop out at the first time of asking to support her ill mother. In Lampedusa, both Stefano and Denise meet people from other cultures to their own who change their perceptions, and in turn the audience’s, idea of strangers and human connection.
I am excited to work with Andy Clark and Louise Mai Newberry who will play Stefano and Denise. Andy is one of my favourite Scottish stage actors and I look forward to working with him again, after The Winter’s Tale earlier this year. Louise Mai originated the part of Denise in the production’s premiere at the Soho Theatre, London in 2015. Her passion for the role and advocacy for the play’s message, in addition to her engaging and dynamic stage presence, means I can’t wait to start working with her.
Anders Lustgarten, playwright and political activist, will be with us in the room for the first few days of rehearsal, which will be both enlightening and valuable. Anders’ combination of activism and dramatism gives his work a unique perspective and one that is really in line with what we hope to achieve with Wonder Fools productions: creating exciting theatre but with a social purpose. In addition, I have an incredibly talented creative team consisting of Alisa Kalyanova, designer; Benny Goodman, lighting designer; and Stuart Ramage, composer. All three are exciting emerging artists whose collaboration will bring skill, imagination and vigour to the production.
What I love about Lampedusa is its human heart. In 2017 it is easy to get lost, downtrodden and depressed at the never-ending negative headlines and news stories. Lampedusa offers a feeling of hope and a celebration of human kindness that will bring warmth and comfort in these increasingly dark times. I can’t wait to start rehearsals and bring Stefano and Denise’s stories to life.