A Nanaimo theatre company will imagine a world where the world’s greatest dramatist dons a cape and ‘takes up the dark mantle.’
Opening this Friday, Nov. 17, Western Edge Theatre will present “a comic book epic of Shakespearean proportions” in Dan Bray’s Knight of the Bat.
The new artistic director for the theatre company, Jonathan Greenway, who will be taking on the 2023-24 season, said he wanted to kick things off with something that was fun, uplifting, and that still fit the mandate for cutting edge and new works.
“The Knight of the Bat just really struck me as something that people could come to enjoy theatre for the sake of enjoyment,” Greenway said. “I found this play and thought it was perfect. It’s absolutely hilarious – I’ve worked in theatre for 15 years professionally and it’s the funniest play I’ve ever worked on … The actors and the script come together in this beautiful blend of comedy and spoofs and references to Shakespeare that fit in with the DC Comics superhero Batman.”
The production imagines a reality where “London’s favourite playwright/playboy William Shakespeare dons the mantle of the cloaked crusader: the Knight of the Bat.” A direct reference to Shakespeare’s life is the loss of Sir Bat’s son, Hamnet, as the character Bruce Wayne would have lost his parents in the DC Comics universe. Aided by his sidekick and squire Robin Goodfellow, the two face off against a slew of amalgamated characters from Shakespeare’s real life, plays or court, and the Batman universe. Audiences will be met with the likes of Lady Mandrake instead of Poison Ivy and the Jester instead of the Joker.
“It’s almost like watching an Adam West Batman from the 1960s, in terms of story style,” Greenway said. “We’re blending a lot of multimedia into this piece … We have film projections of the old ‘Ka-pow’ but also thrown in with a ‘zounds’ for ‘God’s wounds’ and things like that.”
The play calls for 25 characters and recommends at least 10 actors. Western Edge will be staging the production with only five actors.
“That means we have people doubling up as characters, literally wearing two costumes at once – lots of quick changes,” Greenway said, adding they will also be aided by ventriloquist puppets on loan from an Alberni Valley heritage society.
The director said he’s never done anything by playwright Dan Bray before, and in speaking with Bray, learned that Western Edge’s staging will be the first time one of Bray’s plays is produced outside of his own theatre company in Halifax.
“I’m just hoping people can come out and have a ‘bat-tastic’ time,” the director said.
Knight of the Bat will run Friday to Saturday, Nov. 17-18, at 7:30 p.m. at the OV Arts Centre on Victoria Road. It will continue Nov. 23-25 at 7:30 p.m. as well, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Nov. 26. Tickets can be purchased online at www.westernedge.org.