The Revelstoke Theatre Company is moving into the big theatre, taking to the stage with a grand British farce in the tradition of Fawlty Towers and Black Adder.
It’s On, It’s Off, by Ray Lawrence, opens at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre this Thursday, Feb. 28, the first of six shows in town. It’s the theatre company’s first performance in the new theatre, and a big step up from it’s usual venue of McGregor’s at the Powder Springs Hotel.
The decision came about in several phases. First, the theatre company said they would put on a production for Spirit Fest. “It was immediately brought up by a bunch of people that if it was for Spirit Fest it would have to be high energy and absolutely funny,” Darren McKay, the play’s director told me.
He went looking for scripts and settled upon It’s On, It’s Off, which he found on a website called Lazy Bees. “I found this one and I was laughing my ass off as I read it,” he said. “I’ve always been a fan of British Comedy. I’ve been watching it since I was a kid – Monty Python, Black Adder, all that stuff. I’ve always loved that kind of humour.”
Once that decision was made and the play went into production, they realized the set just wouldn’t fit into McGregor’s.
“We also wanted to get in here and do a show and see what it was like,” McKay said.
I spoke to McKay shortly before the casts first rehearsal with the set at the new theatre. The crew was busy making sure the lighting was working and the sound cues were ready. The set – with its look of a traditional British living room – filled the stage.
It’s On, It’s Off starts with husband and wife Daphne and Gerald Humphreys, played by Cecilia Lea and Graham Harper respectively.
Their daughter Tina (Imogen Whale) is about to get married and, of course, they’re having the usual pre-wedding jitters, and then some. They’re also waiting for their daughter’s future mother-in-law Angela Hill (Wendy Harper) to show and stay with them for a few days.
To make matters worse, their son Robert (Jamie Ellis) calls to say his wife has hit him over the head with a wok. He eventually stumbles onto the stage, dazed and very confused (during the rehearsal I saw he accidentally broke a glass during his stumbling. To the actors credit, they didn’t break character at all and even worked the clean up into the play).
True to British farce standards, there’s a lot of outlandish dialogue, with people mishearing each other. Daphne, in particular, goes into panic mode several times after concocting wild situations based on mis-hearing someone. (Is Robert in custody, did he kill his wife? No, he’s actually at the hospital, in the casualty section.)
When Tina shows up, she comes with the news that she told her fiance to “bugger off.” Does that mean the wedding’s off? What about the caterer and all the food that’s been ordered? And the groom’s father wants to wear what kind of hat?
And that was just the first 20 minutes that I was able to see.
“All hell breaks loose,” McKay told me. “There’s miscommunications everywhere, everyone’s been sleeping with everyone else.”
The cast of six is a mix of Revelstoke theatre veterans and rookies. The play also features Emily Horkley as Monica Cauldwell, who is looking for the man of her dreams.
It’s also the first big directing gig for McKay, who’s directed two smaller plays recently, but never done anything this big.
“British farce is like taking comedy and taking it a couple levels above what you would normally do with a comedy,” said McKay. “It’s a lot faster, it’s a lot faster with how they have to deliver the lines. The timing is definitely key.”
He credited many crew members, including stage manager Martin Ralph and guest artistic director Anita Hallewas, with helping him out.
“Another big challenge with British farce is not only are you trying to focus on the two people talking, everybody else on stage is going to be doing stuff to,” McKay said. “It’s always in action so its tough to catch everything that happens.”
With six shows in a 275-seat theatre, McKay said he’s definitely feeling nervous, but at the same time he’s excited for the show to start. He said he’s heard a lot of buzz from people excited to see a play in the new venue.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing this open, seeing what an audience will think of it,” he said. “I want to hear them laugh at it.”
It’s On, It’s Off is at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre from Feb. 28 to Mar. 2 and Mar. 7-9. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. and showtime is at 8 p.m. each night. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. They can be purchased at the Powder Springs or online at www.revelstoketheatrecompany.org.