Saturday, February 24, 2018

New play combines Batman and Downton Abbey at Craigdarroch Castle

October 15, 2015 by Alyssa Koehler, contributing writer


The Lord of Misrule and his psychotic henchmen have taken you and the staff of Arkenham Abbey, an insane asylum in the English countryside, hostage. Your only hope for escape is the Knight Watchman, with whom the asylum inmates have demanded a meeting. As a dedicated foe of all criminals, you can be sure he will respond… but will he survive what the Fool and his gang have in store for him?

Rest assured, this is just the happenings of Arkenham Abbey, a play taking place at Craigdarroch Castle that mashes up Batman and Downton Abbey. Local theatre veterans David Radford and Christina Patterson of Launch Pad Productions adapted it from various Batman comics such as Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke and Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum, as well as some of their own original inspirations, and the Downton Abbey television series. A Batman of the inter-war period (known as the Knight Watchman in this interpretation) battles the likes of the Fool, the Puzzler, the Straw Man, and Pantaloony, all of whom are English-accented and in 1920s garb.

Arkenham Abbey shows a whole new side of the caped crusader (photo provided).

Arkenham Abbey shows a whole new side of the caped crusader (photo provided).

“We had to build our own unique vision of the Batman mythology with its own style and personality, so we decided to set it in the 1920s,” says Radford. “I like the post-Edwardian look, it’s got a classy look to it, and then we stumbled onto the idea that it should be The Dark Knight meets Downton Abbey. So in order to stay away from the copyright we decided it would be England instead of America, and all of the characters would have English accents, either upper class or lower class, depending on who they are in the show. That’s what creates the Downton Abbey vibe.”

Radford and Patterson’s site-specific theatrical work began when they worked as historical interpreters in Barkerville, BC. There, they expanded from re-enactors telling factual historical stories to staging plays such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream in and around the buildings, with the audience moving with the actors from scene to scene.

“We sort of fell in love with the idea,” says Radford, “so we wanted to continue on doing that here in Victoria with the Castle shows.”

In this story, the asylum inmates have taken hostages and demanded the Knight Watchman appear for a meeting. They’ve decided they want to prove a pointŃthat he, a costumed crime-fighter, is just as insane as they are. From the top of the castle downward, it’s a descent into madness as the psychotic criminals torture and terrorize our hero, with the audience following from room to room.

“Castle shows are very different from any other theatre experience you’re going to have because it’s very intimate: you are four feet from the actors,” says Radford. “It’s not like you’re sitting in the back row of the theatre; it’s quite real, right there. And because of that, it does have these moments that are very intimate and can be very scary. We are doing the show at Halloween, so there’s torture, there’s murder and mayhem.”

Radford hopes that Downton fans will be just as interested as fans of the Caped Crusader, even though Lord Grantham is not present.

“We do have our own Lord,” says Radford, “the Lord of Misrule, which is what the Fool represents. He’s the high-status character, and through that you have a servant, staff… because the play is about duality, you have some characters that are both high class and lower class almost at the same time. We do the gothic horror part of the story, and the class system part. That’s the fun and the insanity of it all.”

Arkenham Abbey
8 pm Thursday, October 15 to Saturday, October 31
$28, Craigdarroch Castle

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