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Billy Budd Sailor

by Martin Lewton from the novel by Herman Melville

“..riveting …. there isn’t a performance this intimate or surprising around”
Mark Shenton – The Stage


In BILLY BUDD, SAILOR a young seaman is press-ganged from a trading-ship to serve on a warship, in 1797, during the war between Revolutionary France and Great Britain, shortly after the British Navy’s ‘Great Mutiny’ was  brutally suppressed. Melville began by writing the ballad ‘Billy in the Darbies’ – and then worked and reworked the story until his death. Its closely-wrought themes of male companionship and frustrated desire reflect a lifelong obsession, partly resulting from his ship board experiences, but also deriving from his exceptionally deep and complex feelings for Nathaniel Hawthorne to whom he dedicated Moby Dick.


12 to 20 May 2018 in a bathroom in Sitges, Barcelona

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“As the evening progresses, the atmosphere grows steamy …. the truth can be as slippery as a bar of soap … the piece and Lewton’s performance offer a sly take on a troubling tale”
Lyn Gardner – The Guardian

The recent Brighton Festival Fringe performances of BiIly Budd Sailor represent the second phase of ‘The Billy Budd Project’, on which we have been working since last summer.  In October 2010 we staged three performances of an earlier version of the script at the Marlborough Theatre in Brighton; and we then decided to try to develop and explore this extraordinary story in several different forms; as a site-specific show, as a tourable theatre piece; and as a basis for outreach projects.  In May 2011  we gave thirty-six performances of the ‘site-specific’ version, played in a bathroom for a small audience.

“Crowding into a bathroom to watch actor Martin Lewton very naked in the bath, declaiming the rich words of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd amid rubber ducks and Lego pirate boats while pulling out his hoard of gay porn, delivers a clever double-layered story of illicit lust”
Tim Cornwell – The Scotsman

We have also been lucky enough to obtain some Grants for the Arts funding from Arts Council England that will enable us to develop the show further as a theatre production, with a light- and sound-scape, for touring to small and middle scale venues in the UK.  In addition, we are working on the development of an outreach project that will allow us to use the story to work with severe stammerers; and others, young and old, whose communication abilities are blocked by physical or mental disabilities – those whose voices, like Billy Budd’s, are unjustly blocked and unheard.

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