Chirag Benedict Lobo plays Teddie Luton in Somerset Maugham’s The Circle, directed by Tom Littler in his Orange Tree debut as Artistic Director.
Littler directs Jane Asher (Lady Catherine Champion-Cheney), Pete Ashmore (Arnold Champion-Cheney), Robert Benfield (Murray the Butler), Chirag Benedict Lobo (Teddie Luton), Clive Frances (Clive Champion-Cheney), Nicholas Le Prevost (Lord Hughie Porteous) and Olivia Vinall (Elizabeth Champion-Cheney).
Somerset Maugham’s sparky comedy of manners was first staged in 1921 and has remained a firm favourite with audiences ever since. The Circle will open at the Orange Tree Theatre on 5 May, with previews from 29 April, running until 17 June, and will be available to stream online at OT On Screen from 20 to 23 June.
You’re starring in The Circle at Orange Tree Theatre, what can you tell us about this play?
The Circle is a comedy about a group of people from two different generations and their relationship with love whilst navigating societies expectations of marriage, infidelity and status.
What was it about Somerset Maugham’s classic script that appealed to you the most?
When I was in my final term at Guildhall, Tom Littler who was then still Artistic Director of Jermyn Street Theatre, asked me if I wanted to read the role of Teddie Luton over Zoom as part of an evening of just sharing a play. And I remember then how the play’s writing made me visualise its world and how the themes it was tackling felt very relevant today. So, when Tom offered me the role, I just knew I had to be part of it and breathe life into Teddie in a theatre this time rather than on Zoom.
You’re playing Teddie, tell us a little about the character, and what you’re enjoying about the role?
Teddie Luton is a character I adore in The Circle. To me he is like an eagle. He has a bird’s eye view of life, seeking the soul in what he does and knows how to manage himself around the superficiality of upper-class society while going for what he wants.
The fact that I can have my own interpretation of this character as a brown man from India makes its all the more exciting. The research that has gone into crystalising Teddie’s backstory has been a learning for me about my own people’s history and that makes me all the more passionate about bringing his truth out on stage. It genuinely gives him and the dynamics with the other characters a different perspective.
And what do you think will be the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge for me is always telling the truth on stage, not just a couple of times but consistently. I mean, although Maugham has written these characters so beautifully, there will always be the need to mine the hearts of us performers for more truth.
What’s it been like working with Tom Littler in his first production as the OT’s Artistic Director?
Honestly, he has been one of the calmest directors I have worked with. He really knows how to orchestrate a room and to ensure we never take the work or ourselves too seriously. I think it’s ideal for building an empathetic company as well as getting the best from everyone involved on the project. Plus, he is steering the production in a way where we bring out the humanity of these characters whilst letting the comedy be a by-product of that.
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see The Circle?
I think your readers already know that I am going to tell them to BOOK NOW! But honestly, I see Olivia, Pete, Jane, Nick, Clive and Robert and I can’t tell you how amazing they all are in this production. If anything come see them and I promise you that it will be an evening well spent at the Orange Tree Theatre.
See Chirag Benedict Lobo in The Circle at The Orange Tree Theatre from 29th April 2023.