Ben Duke

 Jean Rush talks to the 2016, winner of the National Dance Critics Award for Outstanding Male Performer,  about his piece Paradise Lost (see News)

How does it feel to perform a one man show for more than a year?

Ben: It feels good! Perhaps it’s easier to play a solo for this long than a duet or group piece because my playing partner is the audience and each night the audience is different and so my experience of performing it is different.

Have you changed the show since the beginning?

Ben:I haven’t made big changes but it has gradually morphed. At the beginning it was important to me that there was no script…..that I knew which bits of the story I wanted to tell but I didn’t know exactly how I was going to tell them. There is still no script but what I say each night has become more similar. I have perhaps lost some of the chaos of the early shows but it has gained more clarity as a result.

This autumn you’re partnering with the excellent Touring Rural Dance Initiative to take PL to rural audiences. What are your thoughts about those dates?

Ben:I’m excited about the rural touring. It was not a show that was made with these venues in mind but we have already tried a couple of stripped back versions of the show and it still seems to make sense. A rural touring veteran said that the difference between performing in theatres and village halls is that in a theatre you feel like the host but in a village hall you are definitely the guest. I’m looking forward to being a guest in some of the harder to find corners of the UK.

Do audiences laugh/clap in the same places or does it differ from show to show?

Ben: Laughing in general yes – clapping is still quite rare – except at the end! But sometimes the audience response can be wildly different. There was a show where the audience really started laughing very early and they laughed such a lot, it felt a bit like a standup comedy show and that gave the show a very different feel; it felt hard to turn the corner into the darker moments. There have also been some quiet audiences and in that situation the show feels sadder.

What’s it like being soaked with water every night?

Ben: Standing fully clothed in a shower of water gives me a very real sense of transformation. I want to be rained on at that exact point in the show. If the water is cold the experience becomes physically difficult as the body tenses – in one show in Findhorn the water was so cold I started getting a brain freeze headache – once in Ipswich the water was so hot I was scolded by it and surrounded by a cloud of steam which I think changed the image somewhat!

What’s next for Ben Duke and Lost Dog?

Ben: I will be working more on the circus piece Kin with Barely Methodical Troupe next year. I will also be making a piece for Rambert to be premiered in autumn 2017. And I will be working on a new Lost Dog duet which I would tell you a lot about if only I knew what I was doing…….