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Tw/Cw: mentions of murder, acts of violence (dismemberment & burning)

Director Ricky Dukes Talks the Changeling

Credit: Charles Flint

Lazarus Theatre Company return to Southwark Playhouse Borough this Autumn with a production that promises not to be for the faint-hearted. Turning their bold ensemble methods to a reinterpretation of Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s rarely staged play The Changeling, audiences are ensured a thrilling and unsettling pre-cursor to Halloween.

In this epic theatrical showcase, the award-winning ensemble company who reimagine and revitalise classic plays in visual, visceral and vibrant productions, will push the boundaries of modern theatre and the expectations of being taken on a journey.

I got the chance to speak to director Ricky Dukes to find out more about the show and how the play has been adapted.

Jamie O'Neill and the Company in The Changeling Rehearsal Room. Credit: Charles Flint


What is The Changeling about?

Blimey – where to start. The Changeling was first performed in 1622 and is written by Thomas Middleton (Women Beware Women, Revenger’s Tragedy) and William Rowley (A Game of Chess). It follows two plots, the main one of which is set in a castle in Alicante, Spain. We follow a young woman, Beatrice Joanna who is meant to be a marrying Alonzo, yet after a chance encounter she meets Alsemero, and falls head over heels in love, as does he. Meanwhile Beatrice is being haunted by her mother’s servant, Deflores who is madly (in every sense) in love with Beatrice. She eventually agrees a contract with Deflores to have Alonzo murdered so she can marry Alsemero - the problem is Deflores doesn’t want money in return for the deed, he wants her. Murder, severed fingers, fire, oh and a whole madhouse of people later, the play comes to a climactic ending with a whole lot of blood.

How have you adapted Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s rarely

staged play?

We have really focused on the castle plot, replacing the madhouse plot with songs (our very own house band, The Patients). The text is gloriously pacey, so we haven’t had to cut much at all. There’s loads of dialogue, twists and turns so it feels fairly modern as opposed to slow and lengthy speeches. Oh, and I should probably mention we have set it in a mad men style bunker!!!

The show states it is “visual and immersive”. Can you explain more?

Our work always considers the audience experience, from the moment you arrive at the theatre through to and post curtain call. So immersive – hmm you’re not walking around a warehouse in Woolwich in the dark with a mask on but you are at the table – for some quite literally. The audience are the 12 th character. Visual – our work always investigates how the scenography can aid the story. On the surface the play is serious, intense and very sweaty, then bursts open into a gloriously theatrical and decadent parade.

With the show's radical staging what will it bring to the show? And how

do you think the audiences will react?

We are sat around the table where it happens, think The Traitors. The play has tonnes of asides, the characters literally break any sense of the 4th wall and converse with the audience. I imagine some will love that, others hate it, we’re not going to force anyone to do anything they don’t want, but at the same time if anyone is willing to get blood on their hands, they can.

Who is your target audience?

Middleton and Rowley fans I hope will come, the play is rarely performed so a really fantastic opportunity to see it live and up on its feet. Lazarus is also about getting those who might think classics aren’t for them to come in and experience these cracking masterpieces, so I want to throw open the door to everyone. That’s why we have £10 preview tickets for Southwark residents, anyone studying drama/production courses and concession tickets for folks in receipt of universal credit/benefits. Come and get a taste of this cracking play.

Colette O'Rourke in The Changeling Rehearsal Room. credit: Charles Flint


What do you want the audience to take away when seeing the show?

Blimey – I never think about what I want audiences to think, or what to feel, just that they must. Nothing worse than boring theatre – the best compliment we have ever had was an audience member who was so shaken to the core with what they experienced on our production of Edward II that they walked into the foyer shouting “fuck” in a euphoric way – so a few more “fucks” would be great.

What are you looking forward to most returning to Southwark Playhouse?

We love it there, it really feels like home and if we could move in, be a resident company, we would! We love the team, the audiences, the spaces. Such a unique vibe – 3 auditoriums!!! It’s a real vibe and they are pretty much up for

anything/everything, supportive and genuinely invest in their artists.

Favourite part of the show?

The cutting off of the finger.

Describe the show in one sentence.

Sex, lust, murder, dismemberment, wedding, water trick, guns, burning people, all the things we hold near and dear to our hearts.

Henrietta Rhodes and Company in The Changeling Rehearsal Room. Credit Charles Flint


Presenting intense visuals,sharp and fast-paced staging as well as striking bloody action, The Changeling is for audiences looking to experience a trip into the uncanny and immersive.

for more info about the show see below for important show info.

The Company in The Changeling Rehearsal Room. Credit Charles Flint



The Changeling

Thursday 28th September – Saturday 28th October 2023

Monday – Saturday, 8pm

Tuesday and Saturday matinee, 3.30pm

2 hours (including interval)

Age Guidance 14+

Content Warnings - Contains smoke, haze, smoking, strobe lighting, sustained

blackouts, blood, dismemberment, and scenes of a sexual

and violent nature.

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