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Ben Target - Lorenzo Interview

Ben Target is a critically-acclaimed performance artist and multi-award-winning comedian (yawn), but in 2020 he gave this up to become the live-in carer for an irascible octogenarian prankster. 

A life-affirming story about death, conveyed through the popular mediums of storytelling, servitude to the audience and live carpentry, a combination not seen on the world stage since Nazareth (circa 30AD).

After playing at the recent a hit run Edinburgh Fringe, Ben won a Fringe first award and now he transfers the show to the Soho Theatre this autumn.

Ben Target. Photo by Ed Moore

I chatted with Ben to discuss the show further.

Firstly, a huge congratulations on the Fringe First award, but let’s go back to the beginnings of LORENZO, what first inspired you to create the piece?
Thank you! It was a huge relief to have the writing of this, my debut theatre show, recognised with such a healthy sized plaque. As facetious as that might sound, I promise I’m glowing with gratitude. The show was inspired by the time I spent as the live-in carer for an irascible, octogenarian, prankster called Lorenzo. This was during the Global Pandemic Lockdowns - I had to give up my night job as a stand-up comedian and so instead hunkered down with him in his hoarders’ paradise of a cottage in North Wembley. We shared many adventures together, compiled by our mutual love of mischief, Cantonese food and carpentry (Lorenzo had spent his life as an architect designing wooden structures and I often work as a carpenter, building theatre sets as one of my day jobs). I wanted something to remember Lorenzo by, so with his permission, I began recording him telling me stories of his peripatetic childhood and his youth in 60s London, where he knew West End gangsters, famous comedians, working class artists and landed gentry. When he passed away, I wanted to pay tribute to his extraordinary life and also share a faithful account of what it is really like to care for someone in their twilight years. This show is those things.

How did you approach developing the show to the place where it is today?
The late, great director and dramaturg (Directurg), Adam Brace saw me doing some stand-up about Lorenzo in April 2022. He liked it so much that he asked me if I’d consider making a show with him. I said no because I’d lost faith in my abilities as a performer during the pandemic and had found work instead as a director, something I love doing. He was persistent though and took me out for increasingly luxurious lunches until one day I said: “I’ll do it on three conditions: 1. I don’t want to hide, I want to share the realities of palliative care, worts, wonders and all. 2. I want to learn how to write longform narratives. 3. I want to perform in the gorgeous venue Summerhall.”. He agreed and so, I wrote a draft of the show for the VAULT Festival. We began rehearsing in the basement of Soho Theatre. I’d walk around in a circle telling him stories. When he liked one, I’d write it up for him. 

We took all these stories and arranged them into an order we thought was the most exciting. We added shadow puppetry to the storytelling as a way to respectfully highlight Lorenzo’s cultural heritage. We added a live carpentry element to emphasise Lorenzo and my friendship, which orbited our mutual love of craftwork (not the band). Adam was pumped about what we were making but then one day, he came to rehearsals late and said he was feeling very unwell, so I suggested he return home. He did but I never saw him again. He died unexpectedly in April of this year. I got the call as I stepped off stage after previewing the show at the Machynlleth Comedy Festival, a year to the day he first saw me speak about Lorenzo on stage. I was numb for about two months afterwards and struggled to maintain my enthusiasm for the show but it was locked into its Edinburgh Festival Fringe run, so I felt I had to honour the booking and somehow see the work we had begun together through. My old friend Lee Griffiths, who I knew from my early days in stand-up approached me and asked whether there was anything he could do to help me out. I’d lent him a hand with one of his shows several years earlier when he was experiencing a crisis and he wanted to repay the favour. From that point on, we relentlessly worked on the story. We examined every possible angle and I wrote draft and draft after draft. In between each draft, we’d do a work-in-progress show to a few trusted people and after each show we’d edit late into the night, whilst the inspiration had a hold on us. 

When I felt unsure as to how to structure the show, I invited a team of collaborators (Letty Butler, Joz Norris, Miranda Holms, Alex Hardy and Lizzy Mansfield) to come and play with us. In these collaborators, I was looking for people who could teach me something I didn’t already know about making work, and they each brought different takes on how the work could be presented. It was a delight getting to work with them all and in compiling their notes, each version I subsequently wrote shone a light on the right direction to take, whether it be through the emphasis of character or flow of comedy and drama throughout the acts. Lee kept me together throughout this, even though he was also mourning his friend and colleague Adam. The supportive Soho Theatre team rallied around us and over four previews in July, we somehow built up the show layer by layer until we had a robust story that has really resonated with people. This show speaks about taking care of people and it was made by people taking care of each other.

Ben Target. Photo by Ed Moore

How did you find managing to balance quite heavy topics like death and making the show funny?
I have a mantra: Entertainment is the engine, boring an audience is a crime and art must provide hope. I wrestle with the work until I feel it is honouring this mantra in a clear and direct way. I find it simpler to do this in the live arena than when I’m writing for Radio or TV because with live work, I can see how the words I speak affect an audience and in reading their response, I can make a considered edit quicker. So, I often trust an audience as much as my gut to let me know what the right ratio of heavy to light is.

How do you reflect on your recent Edinburgh Fringe experience?
With deep gratitude, relief and a strong sense of disbelief, which feels about as Eat, Pray, Love a Fringe experience can be. I just didn’t expect it to go as well as it has. To return to the Fringe after a five year absence in which I thought I’d never be able to make a show again and to have it so warmly embraced by audiences and critics feels like magic, but the good kind of magic, not the stuff magicians do. The Fringe First Award felt like the cherry on top, a cherry I share with Adam and Lee, who were as committed in the show’s making as I’ve been. At the Fringe, I felt like Adam was still with us, in the stories we shared, and long may we continue to share them. I’m so excited to now have the show return to Soho Theatre for a three week run. A massive thank you to the entire Soho Theatre family and all the glorious creatives for giving this show wings.

The show is now transferring to Soho Theatre in London, what can London audiences expect from this show?
A life-affirming story about death with shadow puppetry and live carpentry. Oh, and I’ll be serving coffee and after dinner mints throughout the show, so, if anything, come for that alone.

What would you want an audience to leave feeling having seen the show?
Hope. The fun times and the sad times converge in this story but even so, Adam and I originally set out to make a show that gave people the space to acknowledge that when life gets rough, the messiest situations are best faced together. And I think there’s great hope in that.

Ben Target’s Lorenzo runs at the Soho Theatre from 27th September until 14th October. Tickets are available from

Ben Target. Photo by Ed Moore

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