Ricky Dukes, Artistic Director of the Lazarus Theatre Company, moved to Greenwich 10 years ago and quickly fell in love with the ‘diverse community… great access to culture… cracking pubs as well as fascinating history,’ writes Michael Holland…  

Ricky’s first experience of theatre was the annual Panto at The Wolverhampton Grand Theatre with his nan.  ‘I loved the experience, the occasion, the way theatre can transport you, allow you to escape, entertain, make you laugh, make you cry, make you feel,’ he tells Weekender.

He says that growing up in the Midlands he never felt he could be in the world of theatre, but then a tutor, ‘the wonderful Liz Swift’, encouraged him to have a go, and he did.

The director studied Drama and Performance Studies with associated Education and Business Management at The University of Worcester and then actor training at The Bridge Theatre Training Company, but quickly became bored with the work he was being offered.  Ricky takes up the tale: ‘A friend said “put your money where your mouth is and create the sort of work you want to do,” so Lazarus Theatre was created.  Ten years later we are celebrating the start of our 11th year and a year-long residency at The Greenwich Theatre.’

I asked about the ethos of the company and I could tell that this is something Mr Dukes is passionate about: ‘We make epic theatre in visually striking and visceral productions… We want everyone to experience great plays so our residency will be a selection of some of the greatest plays ever written.’  He then explained the Lazarus Big 5, the ‘core’ of the company’s work: Ensemble, Experience, Engaging, Accessible and Sustainable. Plus, to enlist the support of the community they have a Friends Scheme and a Lazarus Arts For All scheme, enabling access to the arts to those who don’t normally have it. One of those ways is having over 500 tickets at £10.

I know that the world of theatre is not an easy life and this is confirmed by Dukes as he explains the highs and lows: ‘To paraphrase Dickens,’ he says, ‘it can be the best of times and the worst of times; I love being in rehearsals, exploring a play, inventing worlds, working out what it all means with a company of actors and creatives; I love technical rehearsals and previews, it’s fantastically exciting to share a play with an audience. And although we are a classics company we treat every play like a new play and seeing an audience experience Shakespeare for the first time – and get it – is incredibly exciting. The hard times, however, come from getting funding.  As Artistic Director I spend over 50% of my time trying to balance the books.’

And so to Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II, the forthcoming production from Lazarus.  ‘We are thrilled to be taking up a year-long residency at The Greenwich Theatre, a venue that has such theatrical heritage. We begin with one of the most thematically modern plays of the classical canon, Marlowe’s politically charged and sexually explosive play.’

Edward II is on at The Greenwich Theatre, Crooms Hill, Greenwich, SE10 8ES from 16th – 27th January. Times: Mon-Sat 7.30pm, Wed & Sat matinees 3pm. Admission: £10 – £25. Phone 020 8858 7755.