The Lower Depths adapted by Tunde Ikoli, Tricycle Theatre
Notes on the original production by Roland Rees, 2011
Tunde Ikoli and I had a long standing working relationship. He wrote altogether six plays for the Foco Novo Company. The first play On the Out centred around the experience his younger brother had when released from prison. The last play, The Lower Depths, was a modern adaptation of Maxim Gorki’s original play. This was a long cherished ambition of Tunde’s, which I encouraged, by commissioning him to write it. The play was set in the 1950’s and based on his own father’s experiences as a migrant to London from Nigeria. It is set in the East End, Cable Street – Aldgate, in a rooming house. The Russian landlord in the original becomes a older Nigerian, married to a young West Indian girl. ( See Roland Rees’s interview with Tunde Ikoli in Fringe First : Pioneers of Fringe Theatre on Record – Roland’s book, published Oberon 1992, of 41 interviews with people he worked with primarily in Foco Novo period.) The production was put on at the Tricycle in 1986 after briefly touring. I was also working at London University’s Slade School of Fine Art’s Theatre department with Sheelagh Killeen , my designer/wife (who studied Stage Design there in the 60’s) on a student project – the designing of the original play, The Lower Depths, by Maxim Gorki. The students came to see the Foco Novo production after working on their own ideas, and it was interesting to see that one or two of them had decided for themselves to update the play – and student actually set it in the bowels of the ui’s biler house -an apt solution as the play is much about the poor characters trying to keep warm in a Russian winter!