Ben Target is a critically-acclaimed performance artist and multi-award-winning comedian; in 2020 he gave this up to become the live-in carer for an irascible elderly prankster.
Produced by Soho Theatre and directed by Adam Brace (Age is a Feeling; Liz Kingsman: One Woman Show; Alex Edelman: Just for Us), LORENZO is a life-affirming story about death, conveyed through storytelling and live carpentry, a combination not seen on the world stage since Nazareth (circa 30AD).
You’re bringing Ben Target: LORENZO to the Edinburgh Fringe, what can you tell us about the show?
LORENZO by Ben Target (me) is a glowing tribute to two extraordinary people who I loved (platonically). The first person was an irascible octogenarian prankster called Lorenzo (see show title), who lived an extraordinary life (come to the show to find out more) and for whom I became the live-in carer for during Lockdown (Vol. 1-3).
The show is partly the story of the shenanigans we shared, told through the popular disciplines of shadow puppetry, servitude to the audience and live carpentry. The show also takes a (very) gentle look at end-of-life care and the right to die concept but (dare I say it) in a fun way.
The second person I’m paying tribute to is my no longer larger than life Director, the late, great Adam Brace, who died whilst we were making this show (his death was nothing to do with me by the way). Like Lorenzo, Adam was also a prankster, which made our rehearsals a mixture of very funny (for him) and very stressful (for me). Even though I feel very lucky to have spent so many stressful hours in his company, I now have the added stress of not only having to finish this show on my own but also lifting the curse of death which has been placed on it (so, no biggie).
What inspired you to write it?
Adam Brace inspired me to write it. By that, I mean, he spent six months convincing me I should write it. After the endurance test of living in a cramped London flat, looking after Lorenzo and not performing for two years, I had made up my mind to retire and live out the rest of my days on the couch.
However, Lorenzo was such a fascinating person that every conversation I had with him about his storied history blew my little mind. So, with his permission, I started recording our talks and writing them up in a journal and eventually, when we were allowed out of our houses again, I got the itch to share these stories.
Initially out of curiosity, to see if anyone would enjoy them as much as I did but then out of comfort, when I kept seeing audiences connecting with the tales of this old, strange man, who I’d spent so much time with on my own. It was whilst I was doing this “pissing around on stage”, as Adam liked to call it, that he saw me and asked if I’d consider making my experiences into a show with him. I said: “No.” (I didn’t want to endure the horrific stresses of writing a show again after a decade of doing it pre-pandemic). He said: “You won’t be alone this time, you’ll be making it with me. And besides, I’m kind of a big deal now.”. I said: “Prove it.”, and he did by going on to be nominated for and then losing two Olivier Awards. Anyway, now that he’s dead and I have to finish this show on my own, I know two things: 1. He lied, and 2. This is the best prank he’s pulled on me yet.
Did you find it difficult to write about something so personal to you?
Yes. It is excruciatingly painful. Every time. I don’t really know why or how I’m still going after a decade, but I am still doing it, and in the doing it, I’m usually able to come to terms with the gnarlier parts of life in a way that provides sustenance and brevity for others, and that nearly always ends up feeling worth it further down the line.
Also, it’s less intense doing this than working the 10 hour shifts on the chip fryer at the kebab shop I used to work at when I left school. I got paid £4 an hour, would finish at 4am and would inevitably have to endure the clusterfuckery of the drunken olympics that is the hallmark of living in a market town.
You’re also performing the show, what do you enjoy about performing your own work and what do you think will be the biggest challenge?
I love performing because it’s where I feel I have permission from myself to be completely myself. In all other areas of life: my day job, being a flatmate, negotiating public transport etc., there are a bunch of expectations I hold myself to. Expectations like not scanning my face on the office photocopier for the tenth time in one day, not ordering pizza to the house at 3:30am on a Monday morning and not leaving chewing gum under bus seats.
On stage though, I feel I am free to do what I like and be who I want to be, even if, for example, that’s someone who leaves chewing gum under the seats in the auditorium. The biggest challenge I have in performing this show will be my focus, or lack of focus, rather. I can barely concentrate on one thing at a time these days and I’ve made a show where I’m supposed to be telling an exquisite story, whilst using beautiful shadow puppets and doing live woodwork in a way that’s sexy. It is going to be, bare minimum, a complete disaster for my health, but a hugely entertaining disaster for the audience to witness. So, if you like watching disasters (e.g. Titanic, Cats or roadworks in Birmingham) then this show will be perfect for you.
What are you looking forward to about bringing the show to Summerhall?
The immaculate wooden flooring.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Ben Target: LORENZO?
This show is the ultimate way to start the day. It is better than freshly squeezed orange juice, a fry-up and sex. It is not better than all of these things at the same time but sometimes in life you just have to accept that not everything will come to you at once.
Some say a show about death at 11:55am might be too much but what those people don’t know is that I’ll be sweetening the deal by serving coffee and biscuits and on top of that, an excellent show. So, sit down, settle in and let me take care of you – you deserve it, babes.