William Shakespeare will be receiving a fitting tribute for his birthday this year, courtesy of the St. John’s Players
By Jason Sheppard
The 70th Annual Provincial Drama Festival promises some unique and entertaining programming this year featuring many of this province’s extremely talented writers and performers.
One of these programs will be a production of David Belke’s The Maltese Bodkin to be performed by The St. John’s Players.
The theater group wanted to pick something rather unique that still fits into the spirit of the festival.
Unique and Challenging
“We were having a really hard time picking out a particular script,” said stage manager Jackie Hibbs. “We always like to give a good representation of our company. And so that meant we wanted to do a big cast, we wanted to do something that was a technical challenge, and an acting challenge, but more so just have a little bit of diversity.”
One reason why the St. John’s Players ended up going with Belke’s story was because they found out that we were going to be performing on April 23rd, William Shakespeare’s birthday.
“That kind of cemented it for us so we she felt like a good fit for the festival.” said Hibbs.
With a cast of 18 performers and 23 with background actors, everyone involved feels this is the perfect showcase for those who appreciate the works of the Bard.
“I think it’s an appreciation of Shakespeare,” said Andrew Halliday who plays the lead character, detective Birnam Wood. “It’s not so much a Shakespearean play as it is a take on 1940s film noir. Without ruining it too much, I’ve described it as (the Humphrey Bogart movie) The Maltese Falcon as told by Shakespearean characters.’
And indeed, various characters from many of Shakespeare’s works are used to fill the roles within this story. “Imagine all of Shakespeare’s characters living in a community as they would come and go, as they would be in their plays.” explains Halliday.
“it’s an interesting way the characters are borrowed from these well-known stories,” said performer Brandon Hillier who plays Iago. “If you know in the original plays, someone’s a villain, and they come on stage in this play, and they say their name, you know that’s the villain.No need to even explain that.”
Shakespeare’s classic characters provide a backdrop to this new story and if you’re not overly familiar with Shakespeare, it’s only to keep in mind that The Maltese Bodkin plays an homage to these characters rather than being about them. “It’s like Looney Tunes cartoons,” explains Hillier. “In that Bugs Bunny is always Bugs Bunny – he just wears different hats. This is the same thing.”
An aspect of this play which audiences are sure to appreciate is at its core, this is a detective story. “Birnam wood is discovering these characters as the play progresses,” said performer Anna Stassis who plays Viola Da Messaline. “He’s learning about these characters the same time the audience is.”
“There’s a comedic element as well,” adds Sean Collins who plays dual roles in The Maltese Bodkin. Collins plays King Richard, one of the worst villains in all of Shakespeare’s works, he says there is comedy added to not make the story so “dark.”
‘It’s Just Fun’
“We’re having all kinds of fun,” Hillier says. “There’s fun in being a performer anyway and getting to play a part, getting to play a new character – that’s just fun in its most basic form.”
The story, combined with the play’s costumes, props (swordfights!) and even with the music chosen (a ‘40s noir saxophone meets with a Shakespearean era lute), the team behind this production of The Maltese Bodkin promises audiences will have a good time.
“I’ve been explaining it to my friends as the Shrek version of Shakespeare,” said Stassis on the play’s comedic tone.”Even if you’re not familiar with Shakespeare, you’ll still understand it.”
“It’s just fun,“ said play director Louise Kearley. “It’s a spoof on Bogart and the Shakespearean characters and the silliness of putting them all together in one place and one time.It’s fun and it’s big. It’s real theater and I don’t think people see enough of that anymore.”
Tickets for The Maltese Bodkin can be purchased from the Arts & Culture Centre on-line or call the box office at 729-3900