Arkenham Abbey—Theatre for a Dark Night at Craigdarroch Castle October 15-31, 2015.

Arkenham Abbey—Theatre for a Dark Night at Craigdarroch Castle October 14-31, 2015.

This year Ian Case of Giggling Iguana Productions and “Castle-show” initiator hands over the reins having announced his retirement in 2014 after 15 fright-filled years. Case will be remembered for hits The Fall of the House of Usher, The War of the Worlds, I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Cursed Cabaret of Kelowna Day Taylor and Dracula—the Blood is the Life.

Stepping into the breach are Case’s long-time collaborators David Radford and Christina Patterson of Launch Pad Productions (Dracula-the Blood is the Life, Watch for Bones, the Half Time Show, Bike Ride, Tara Firm and the Lunar War Chronicles) with the original composition Arkenham Abbey—Theatre for a Dark Night.

Arkenham Abbey October 2015Radford—well-known for his pitch-perfect Stuart Mclean impression—has a geeky passion for comic book heroes and villains that he has channeled into an inventive riff on the genre, utilizing the beautiful Victorian-era architecture of Craigdarroch Castle to maximum effect. The castle almost becomes an additional character—there’s a definite sense the walls have stories of their own to tell. An impressive exterior with massive porte-cochère gives way to a magnificent interior—4 levels of staircases wrapped around a central column, secret passage-ways and hidden staircases encased in fabulous woodwork. On windy nights sighs and whispers fill the air.

Arkenham Abbey is a home for the criminally deranged. In order not to frighten the guests, the Warden (Jared Gowen) is judicious in both his greeting and his warnings—a sense of menace is omnipresent, and fear begins to tickle away at the subconscious. The audience is here to see the inmates—“patients” as Sister Mary (Christina Patterson) carefully chides us—perform a play of their own creation. What could possibly go wrong?

Black Jack (Trevor Hinton) hovers in the shadows, his incomprehensible mumblings and mutterings, calculated to frighten. One “boo” and the audience jumps. Suddenly, the entire evening is high-jacked by the appearance of the Fool (David Radford), hell-bent on destruction and revenge. Whisked away to the top floor, the audience complies begrudgingly.

Will the Night Watchman (Justin Carter) save the day, or is the entire enterprise destined to be blown to smithereens? Along the way, this homage has plenty of twists and turns (some of which will not be revealed in this review in order not to spoil the pleasure) sure to perplex.

The cast create a heavy foreboding throughout the evening, assisted by low-tech ambient lighting that hides as much as it illuminates. Fight scenes (fight choreography Peter Abrahams) owe much to the “kapow” battles of our childhood. Evil is palpable. Will good prevail?

There’s only one way to find out—hie thee thither to partake of theatrical enchantment; prepare to be whisked away to 1929 and a classic battle of good versus evil with a high-camp twist.

“Arkenham Abbey” is a Batmanesque thriller that combines the best elements from the most Gothic Batman comics and spins them into a live horror-comedy.

Arkenham Abbey: Theatre for a Dark Knight by Launch Pad Productions
Craigdarroch Castle
October 15-31st (as of October 23 this  show is sold out)
Tickets and Info: 250-592-5323

Starring: Justin Carter, Jared Gowen, Trevor Hinton, Christina Patterson, and David Radford.
Written by David Radford
Directed by David Radford & Christina Patterson
Costumes by Martha Burd
Fight Choreography by Peter Abrahams

Warning: due to the close proximity of actors to audience, parents with children under 13 years old should be advised that the show does contain blackouts, screaming, and moments of extreme violence.

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