Fact meets fable in a comedy about the life of Genghis Khan at The New Theatre Royal

The cast of Genghis in dress rehearsal. From left: Callum Walker,
Cam Holling and 
Liam Capper
The cast of Genghis in dress rehearsal. From left: Callum Walker, Cam Holling and Liam Capper

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A physical comedy, looking at the relationship between fact and myth through the lens of the life of Genghis Khan? Sure, why not...

This new play, by the team behind Five Beaches and How to be a Girl, seeks to uncover the truth about the fabled Mongolian khan.

Whatever you read about anything, you have to sit back and ask yourself, what is true here? How can this be interpreted?

Playwright Zella Compton

Writer Zella Compton explains the play’s origins: ‘A long time ago I wrote a monologue where I appeared as Henry VIII, and I thought “I quite like this, who shall I do next?”

‘I did a whole load of research, maybe three years ago, looking at different opinions of him and the way he’s portrayed. In our culture he’s this barbarian who slaughtered all these people, but in other cultures he’s pretty much revered. I don’t want to use the word feminist, but there was a lot in some of the research, things about his outlook on women, and it’s more modern than one would assume. But then I look at Donald Trump and think how is that modern..?

‘I did all this research and thought I can’t just do this as a monologue, so I turned it into a play.’

‘The comedy aspect came as when sometimes you deal with difficult subject matter, to put it in a context which takes people along a journey and invites them in with the humour, it’s easier for people to think about rather than in your face death and destruction.

The three-hander sees one actor take the role of Genghis from troubled teenager to conqueror of half the world, while the other two take 10 roles apiece, with one representing ‘history, the factual side and one is the narrator – the storytelling side. Throughout the play they bounce “facts” off each other and discuss what that means,’ says Zella.

‘I think the truth we’re trying to get to with the piece is that whatever you read about anything, you have to sit back and ask yourself, what is true here? How can this be interpreted?

‘The two characters tell the life story of Genghis Khan and along the route they discuss these different elements and how they can unfold and what you can take away from them. That does sound like a lecture, but it isn’t in any way shape or form.

‘But it is really fun, it’s very physical theatre, lots of energy and vibrancy.

‘And we’ve got a drummer!’

New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth

Saturday, November 5

newtheatreroyal.com