Globe Theatre attiring woman Kate, played by Ana Carvalho (front), is attacked by a trio of zombies played by Brookner Tobin, Ian Cambronero and Sam Wharran (from left) in the VIU theatre department production of William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead: The True and Accurate Account of the 1599 Zombie Plague. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

VIU theatre department imagines zombie plague in Shakespeare’s time

‘William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead’ being staged March 4-7 and March 12-14

The VIU theatre department’s latest production sees William Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth I and a group of actors and courtiers take shelter in London’s Globe Theatre during a zombie plague.

Starting tomorrow and continuing until March 14, Malaspina Theatre hosts William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead: The True and Accurate Account of the 1599 Zombie Plague, by American playwright John Heimbuch, who has also written adaptations of Dracula and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Director Leon Potter said the play, first staged in 2008, is part of the late-aughts monster mash-up movement that spawned works like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

“It’s that genre,” Potter said. “It’s ‘Let’s take a classical story and a classical idea and throw some zombies into it and see what would happen.’”

After reading the script, Potter knew at once that his students would love the play, and that prediction was confirmed at the first read-through.

“It was lively and it was fresh and it was a lot of fun. Everybody had a really good time,” he said.

Second-year student Willem Roelants plays Shakespeare. He will soon be graduating from the theatre program and this is his last VIU play but his first mainstage production. He said William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead is a good play to end on.

“It’s challenging and it’s a really good last time to work with Leon, who’s taught me a lot,” Roelants said. “I get to perform in the theatre which I’ve lived in for the last two years for the last time. It’s kind of sad but we’ve got a great set and a great group of people and a bunch of actors and you get to yell and there’s action and sword fighting. It’s just a great last show. It’s exciting.”

William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead features historical figures, like philosopher Francis Bacon, and frequently references the Bard’s works, but Potter and Roelants said the play isn’t just for those well-versed in the Elizabethan era.

“If you’re familiar with Shakespeare’s plays at all you will hear a lot of lines that are coming from them,” Potter said. “However, at the same time you’ve got this really interesting story that if you’ve never even heard of Shakespeare, it’ll be fun to watch.”

WHAT’S ON … The VIU theatre department presents William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead: The True and Accurate Account of the 1599 Zombie Plague at Malaspina Theatre, VIU Bldg. 310, from March 4 to 7 and 12 to 14 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $15, $12 for students. Pay-what-you-can preview March 4, $5 for those dressed as zombies March 12. Available online or at the door.

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