Written & Performed by Kat Francois, Directed by Dawn Reid.
Technical & Research assistant Rob "Sloetry" Covell.
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How Raising Lazarus came to be
A friend of the playwright, Kat Francois, happened to be flicking through a book of Grenada, the home of Kat’s family in the Caribbean. The book contained a photo of a War Memorial in the capital St George’s. Closer examination showed this to be the names of Grenadian soldiers who had fallen in the two World Wars. Some of the names could be seen, and it was the discovery of a “Francois” in this photo that snowballed into the story told in Raising Lazarus.
It so happened that this friend, and now Assistant Researcher for the play, had recently researched the death of a British relative in the First World War, so many of the channels for investigation where fresh in mind. A quick look at the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission showed the available details of Lazarus Francois, died 8th August, 1916, of parents in River Sallee, Grenada… the same small country town in Grenada that Kat’s family hailed from.
Initially in some disbelief that she had a relative who had fought for the British, Kat could not dispute the evidence mounting up and called her grandmother who confirmed indeed there was a relative, Lazarus Francois, who had died in the war.
Much reading of the British West Indies Regiment followed. Visits on line and in person to the National Archives and Imperial War Museum unearthed Regimental diaries and photographs that enabled much of Lazarus’ footsteps to be retrodden, from formation and training in Grenada to transportation of these young men and other islanders across a cold Atlantic ocean to Plymouth and then onto barracks at Seaford in Sussex.
Many were to die from the cold and lack of winter clothing while in England, and urgency was made by the army to ship the majority of the BWIR to Egypt to support the fight against the Turks and defend the Suez canal.
On a visit to Grenada, Kat and her research team tried to find more of Lazarus by interviewing relatives, and this led to tracking down his granddaughter now living in New Jersey. Visits to his parish Church in Sauteurs, Grenada could not unearth his birth certificate, but it was a fascinating insight into the history of his piers… his Grandparents would have been born into slavery by the country he chose to fight for.
The BWIR was split into battalions, very much made up of the same islands, which enabled much of Lazarus’ journey to be retraced. By following which battalion Grenadians had gone into, one could follow the War Diary to see for example that they stayed on in Egypt while many Jamaicans moved to France to support the Western Front.
One puzzling development in the Lazarus story had to be pieced together from the start. Although his battalion was in Egypt at the time of his passing, he was listed by the War Graves Commission as being buried in Mombasa, Kenya.
The Regimental Diary showed, that a small number of Lazarus’ battalion were moved by ship to Mombasa to support the war effort against the Germans in East Africa. The very day the ship arrived in Mombasa, Lazarus Francois was pronounced dead.
Circumstances surrounding his death are vague, and certainly it is unlikely to have been from any action as the ship came to port in “friendly” waters. There is talk from senior relatives in the Francois family, that Lazarus was killed by knife or bayonet in his hammock while on board the ship, but with so much time past, it is not possible to determine whether this was by accident or not.
And so Lazarus Francois came to rest in the continent of his ancestors, but with destiny written into his very name, his story, and that of the thousands like him who served their colonial master, was raised and told by one of his own.
TOURING ABILITY OF RAISING LAZARUS
KAT FRANCOIS is an award winning performance poet, winner of the BBC3 slam championships in 2004 and the Word Slam poetry championships in 2005, since which she has expanded her repertoire to include playwriting and comedy. Her first solo play SEVEN TIMES ME, an autobiographical play, travelled to Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2007, Adelaide Fringe festival in 2008 and Stavanger Norway as well nationally, to critical acclaim. She recently received a 5 star review from the Camden Fringe festival where she premiered her new hour long comedy show The Kat Francois comedy show.
Raising Lazarus is a new solo hour-long play, developed with the Theatre Royal Stratford East, London as part of their year long Spoke-Lab series.
Raising Lazarus was directed by Dawn Reid whose credits include, The Harder They Come, Funny Black Women on the Edge, Family Man, and most recently Clockwork Orange.
RAISING LAZARUS is available for touring from Autumn 2011 and is suitable for both small and medium scale productions.
The play comprising of one performer who will be accompanied by one technician/stage manager. Larger tours may require one more additional person to support (taking total tour to three people including performer).
At this point consist of a backless bench, a small black block and a display board. In the near future the play will acquire more stage furniture, which will be used in the performance depending on availability of stage space.
The play has a lighting plan, which can be stripped down for venues that do not have the ability to facilitate such a plan, or a small amount of lighting can be brought along by the company.
The play needs the use of a projector able to connect to a computer and a screen. The second option for venues without access to such facilities would be for Zupakat Productions to bring along the visuals as physical pictures rather than slides.
The physical manifestation of the play is that by the end of the performance there are materials available for the audience to examine and investigate once the show is over. In the future will hopefully form part of an exhibition which will follow the play around.
Kat Francois is a personable and flexible performer, who is experienced in performing and travelling. Zupakat Productions is happy to discuss the possibility of touring the play in unusual venues, rural venues, or very small venues, as well as established theatre spaces. The ethos of the company is to ensure the work reaches all audiences, not just audiences who are used to accessing theatre space.
Raising Lazarus is a play, which explores WW1 history and the connection between Britain and the Caribbean, and Zupakat Productions is eager to make the story as accessible as possible. It is a play about history but also common human experience, including hope, loss, relationships and family.
Kat Francois has over 20 years extensive experience working with young people, having started working as a youth worker as a 17 year old. She has worked with an array of young people, including in schools, colleges, universities, pupil referral units, and young offenders institutes, and has also worked with young people teaching dance, poetry, P.H.S.E and drama, again in schools, colleges, universities, homeless hostels, care homes, and in youth clubs, and summer programmes up and down the country.
She has been facilitator for the leading provider of poets to the education system APPLE AND SNAKES for over 8 years. She has also recently been signed up by The Theatre Royal Stratford East to run their newly established poetry programme for young people. She has experience working with young people from all backgrounds, and social situations, and is known for her ability to reach out to young people who may be deemed as difficult to work with.
Kat Francois is happy to work with young men and women, and has also had experience working with young people with both physical and learning difficulties. Kat Francois has a current up to date enhanced CRB check. Working with young people has always been a big passion and Kat Francois is happy to run workshops wherever there is an interest in such work.
Kat Francois is also happy to run adult workshops; she is a warm, friendly and dedicated facilitator who is committed to making her workshops accessible to all.
RAISNG LAZARUS THE SCHOOLS VERSION
Raising Lazarus the schools version is a half an hour-long extract of the full-length play, followed by a Q and A, including hot seating of characters in the play.
The young people will have an opportunity to look at all the pictures and examine the information the play has gathered around the British West Indian Regiment.
(Kat Francois will be applying for funding in order to acquire, a WW1 replica uniform, and other props which the young people will be able to try on and touch, making the schools version of the play as interactive as possible.
Kat Francois is happy to write workshops specifically for schools in order to fit in with the curriculum, she is happy to teach across the curriculum, in English classes, drama, P.H.S.E, History or Geography or anywhere else a school may deem a workshop possible.
The general public
Special interest groups
“Kat you were brilliant.” Zara.
“Lazarus has truly risen and is with us; thanks to you! Bravo cheers, Monique Martin.
Incredible performance! Your wit, skills, versatility, incredible talents as so enjoyable and enlightening… bring on the schools tour, tell history as it needs to be told.” Kate
You’re an inspiration! Loved it, and if you take it on the road, I’ll take my young people.” Gabs.
“Thank you s much for having shared your experienced of researching your family and bringing your findings to life in such a wonderfully captivating an informative manner, you are an inspiration.” Anna
“Goodness Gracious, what a show.” Marie
“Fantastic show, really glad I came truly inspired, keeps up the good work.” Michelle Pritchard.
“Very well done, enjoyed it enormously.”
“Wonderfully inspiring show.” Shahida Ali
Zupakat Productions is a small and friendly company, who are eager to work with anyone who is committed to supporting quality art, and making that art accessible to the general public. If you have any questions or concerns please make contact and Zupakat Productions would be more than happy to discuss an individual performance package that is able to meet the needs of your organisation.