The Death of Brian – A Zombie Odyssey at Edmonton Fringe

The Death of Brian – A Zombie Odyssey
Telus (10437 – 83 avenue) August 15, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24
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An interview with Llysa Holland and Ricky Coates

Ricky Coates in The Death of Brian. Photo credit: JMC Photography

Ricky Coates in The Death of Brian. Photo credit: JMC Photography

Describe your show in five words.

Zombie radio-drama/physical theater mashup! (I cheated, didn’t I?)

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?

Brian Smith embarks on an epic quest to reunite with his wife after his “demise”. This intensely physical theatrical experience questions, “What is human, and what makes a monster?” while playing between humor and horror.

theatre simpleton’s aim is to strip the theatrical experience down to “the imagination of the actor and audience, the playwright’s words and the director’s vision”. To me, this evoke’s thoughts of ditching elaborate sets, props, and special effects – how do you approach that in a show about zombies?

Aside from the solo-performer Ricky, the rest of the cast is voice-over, and the set is an adjustable army cot that gets pushed, pulled, stood on end, and flipped over to create a fluid environment. Combined with Ricky performing incredible feats of physical theater, the audience is forced into their imaginations. By isolating the zombie and the actor to one person, the audience gets to experience what a pathetic, yet human, monster the zombie is. (Face it, a lone zombie is pretty lame. One blow to the rotting head, and … squish, splat, no more zombie.) Still, there are definite moments of bloody flesh-eating (it’s a zombie show, after all!)

There’s a lot of references in popular culture to the supernatural nowadays – what inspired theatre simpleton to take on a zombie show? How do you reconcile the amount of exposure audiences have already had to themes about zombies with what you want to accomplish in The Death of Brian?

Six years back, Ricky was observing a comic book brainstorm over the trade Night Zero, when he started wondering, “Why are there no stories from the point-of-view of the zombie?” Later, as he was teaching some high school students, all they wanted to write were stories about zombies and robots, robots and zombies – the modern monsters, our fears given monstrous form. With both thoughts, he started musing with pen and paper, and the “monster” of the zombie started to blur. Who is the human animal, and who is the soulless consumer? The zombie in this show is unlike any other you’ve probably seen on stage or screen.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

Whether or not you like zombies, The Death of Brian is going to be a worthwhile experience. It drops the big questions that only monsters can help us tackle while allowing for some dark fun. There are also a lot of juicy nuggets for zombie, scifi, mythology, and comic fans – I’d be super impressed if anyone caught them all!

Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (Edmonton arts people or otherwise)?

This is theater simple’s 10th show at the Edmonton Fringe! Admittedly, we’ve been coming since 1994, so it’s not TOO intense, but we’ve had several memorable shows. In THIS production, K. Brian Neel directed – he’s was at the Fringe last year, came originally YEARS ago with One World Theatre. Ricky came to Edmonton originally with theater simple’s production of THE SNOW QUEEN, then came back a few years ago with ROBERTA AND THE MOON, and now DofBrian… Llysa Holland (producer and voice of ‘mad’ doctor) has been producing and/or acting with all the theater simple shows – The Fever, Mother Courage, The Master & MArgarita, Escher’s Hands, etc..)

The 33rd Edmonton International Fringe is August 14 – 24. I’ll be previewing shows up until the Fringe starts. Want your show to appear on After the House Lights? Email [email protected].

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