The Royal Canadian Theatre Company fall line-up
By Rebecca Peterson, Assistant Editor
“If you value your life, keep away from the moor!”
A well-known line from one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s best-known and most adapted short stories, The Hound of the Baskervilles, the warning promises dire consequences should the heir to Baskerville Hall, Sir Henry Baskerville, return to his ancestral home. This, combined with the previous Lord Baskerville’s murder, is what spurs super sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his trusted companion, Doctor Watson, into action. It’s a straightforward, entertaining, yet sombre mystery for the ages.
However, the Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s production of this classic is anything but straightforward. Or sombre. It’s absolutely entertaining, however.
Adapted for theatre by playwrights Steve Canny and John Nicholson, this telling of The Hound of the Baskervilles features—among other wild additions—a pants-stealing fireplace, a steamy sauna sequence, and a fast-paced comedy style that promises to leave the audience breathless.
The Other Press caught up with the production last weekend during one of their rehearsals.
“I just love the silliness of it and sort of trying to ground a very big, ridiculous, farcical comedic performance in some form of reality,” said Johnathan Mason, who plays Sir Henry Baskerville in the show. “The struggle between those two things is really fun, and a great challenge.”
This production is one of two produced by the Royal Canadian Theatre Company for this fall, the other being a pantomime: Ellie King’s Sinbad, the Pirate and the Dinosaur, set to hit the stage in December.
Ellie King herself is a well-known name in the local theatre community, largely famous for her annual pantomimes, which are known for sticking closely to traditional English pantomime stylings. A director, stage actor, and voice actor, Ellie King immigrated to British Columbia from England in 1982. She was the founder and artistic director of the Raymond Burr Performing Arts Centre in the early 2000s, as well as the current Royal Canadian Theatre Company.
King is famous for her personality and dry sense of humour, as well as her dedication to perfection in her shows. When asked what sets the Royal Canadian Theatre Company apart from other companies, King simply stated, “We are brilliant.”
After a laugh, King elaborated: “We have an open-door policy, and we are non-discriminatory in any area—we offer blind casting so we will cast the person who is right for the role … Everything we do, we approach with our three watchwords: Respect, inclusiveness, and excellence, and we apply that to everything we do.”
So what does the RCTC do?
“We specialize in comedies, and we are very good at comedies,” said King. “We also like to scare people, but right now we are guaranteeing comedies for the next three, four years, because people want them and because the world is in a bit of a state right now.”
In regard to this show in particular, King would like to warn the audience to “wear something to hold your ribs in please, and make sure your teeth are secured tightly.”
“It’s a very silly play … It’s very fast-moving, it’s very funny. For anybody who’s into theatre—like really into theatre—watching what’s happening on stage, it’s probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever directed in terms of just the staging. It’s very complex, but very funny.”
King and two of the lead actors are actually veterans of this play in particular, as they’ve performed it before as part of an equity co-op.
“[This show features] an insanely frenetic pace and utter precision in that,” said Steven Weller, the show’s Doctor John Watson. Weller and his co-star, Michael Charrois (Sherlock Holmes in the production), are reprising their roles from their co-op production.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Charrois, of the rehearsal process this time around. “It’s been full of laughs; it’s been full of discoveries … It’s great to go back and revisit the lines and the characters and find more richness and more comedy.”
“The good thing about this [show] too is, although it’s a spoof adaptation of the story, it actually steers quite close to the story itself, so you’ve got all the main elements in there,” said King. “So it’s really good for drama students, English students as well.”
When asked if King had any advice for theatre majors looking for a career on-stage, the industry veteran had plenty.
“You have to be totally committed to what you’re going to do. It’s a very, very hard life. Grow a thick skin. You will be turned down way more times than you will be booked. Be prepared to travel and be prepared to do without—I hope you like Kraft Dinner, because you’re going to be living on it a lot. Be prepared to take chances and to take risks.”
“Learn your craft! When you go into an audition make sure you know what the play is about. If you can get a copy of it, research it. If you know who the director is and who the company is, research them so you know what kind of things they like and what they’re looking for in an actor.
“Make sure that you treat yourself as a business. A lot of people don’t get that but you are your own business, you are a sole proprietorship, so look after that side of things too, otherwise you’re going to end up in trouble … Just take it seriously. It’s a serious, serious business, although we have a great deal of fun, and it’s a very, very tough life. So make sure you’re prepared for that. Understand that being a star in Hollywood does not make you an actor, but being an actor can make you a star in Hollywood.”
The Hound of the Baskervilles opens October 5 at the Surrey Arts Centre, and will tour throughout the month. Sinbad, the Pirate and the Dinosaur opens December 15 at the Surrey Arts Centre mainstage. For more information on upcoming performances, check out the Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s Facebook page, or their website www.rctheatreco.com.