September 15, 2011
By Kristen Coughlar
EMC Entertainment - Two actors, 42 costume changes, vampires, ghosts, mummies, werewolves, and a trip to Egypt, all this and more will play out on stage later this month when the King's Town Players present the first play of their 2011/2012 season: The Mystery of Irma Vep.
Ever since the sudden death of Lady Irma Vep, who while alive was known for her affinity of the occult, Mandacrest Manor and its residents: Lord Edgar and his new mistress, Lady Enid, stable hand Nicodemus Underwood and housekeeper Jane Twisden have been witness to strange happenings on the estate. Not only is a wolf haunting the grounds, but Lady Irma Vep's spirit seems to loom over the estate.
"If you've ever wanted to see Rebecca or Gas Light or any of those other cheaper thrillers made fun of, it's got elements of all of them," actor Steven Spencer said of the satire by Charles Ludlam.
Spencer and fellow actor Clayton Garrett are the productions only onstage cast. They share the task of portraying the play's seven characters, which are intended to be played by two actors.
"The costume changes have been quite challenging. The last count was 42 costume changes, and they happen in the middle of scenes," Garrett explained. In fact, at points throughout the play he and Spencer will need to maintain conversations between certain characters while offstage transforming into a different character.
"One of my characters has a wooden leg, and every time I enter as another character I have to remind myself to stop doing the wooden leg walk," Spencer said.
Garrett said it will be interesting to gauge audience members' reaction to the fact that all characters are being played by the same two individuals.
"My goal is to be convincing enough that I am these different characters, especially when we talk about cross-gender stuff... It's funny when a guy wears a dress, but what would actually make it interesting is if I can make people in the audience forget for at minute that I'm actually just a guy in a dress."
Garrett and Spencer noted that rehearsals, which have been ongoing since the end of July, have been coming along well.
"There's as much for people to learn backstage as there is onstage, so it's a little different rehearsal process in that sense, there are more people backstage than there are onstage," Garrett said.
"This was supposed to be an easy show for us to mount for the first show. We all thought, 'oh, yeah, this is two people, it should be a piece of cake.' Then we got into it and were like, 'this is insane.'"
While to the unfamiliar it sounds like a confusing ragbag of every occult reference one can think of, all will be understood by the end of the production.
"Half the humor of the whole piece is telling this story, which is incredibly convoluted. And like all really great thrillers, it's all buildup and then the payoff (where) everyone is explained what happened," Spencer said.
The Mystery of Irma Vep runs Tuesday, Sept. 13 to Saturday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. at Convocation Hall in Queen's University's Theological Hall, 85 Stuart St. Tickets for the production are $20 ($17 for students and seniors), and are available at the Grand Theatre Box Office, 218 Princess St., 613-530-2050, www.kingstongrand.ca. A limited number of tickets will also be available at the door. The King's Town Players will donate $2 to Domino Theatre for every Domino member (Domino members must show their membership card at the door) who buys a ticket to the show. That money will go towards fundraising efforts for the company's new space at the Harold Harvey Arena.