By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Christina Patterson and David Radford are the heart and soul of Launch Pad Productions, a Victoria, BC based theatre company, and they have a new production coming up that will be a delight to Batman fans. They are presenting Arkenham Abbey, a horror comedy which pays homage to the comics, TV shows and films about this Dark Knight. It will be playing at Craigdarroch Castle starting October 15th and leading up to Halloween.
I started noticing them when I decided to make attending shows at The Castle an annual tradition. They appeared in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2009) and Dracula: The Blood is the Life (2012/13). In alternating years, I saw what they did at 2011 the Victoria Fringe Festival was more than fun. They showed a true love for the medium. Tara Firm and the Lunar War Chronicles (2011), according to Radford, is a Teslapunk styled story than steampunk. His imaginative spirit is captivating and he knows how to write for his wife, Christina. I had always hoped for a continuation of this saga and was told that if there’s a venue to continue it at, it would be at the Victoria Event Centre. Hopefully I did not miss any advertising for it, but alas there were years where my nose was stuck behind many an academic book. In what I took from my past inquiry with Radford, I instantly knew he was a literary nerd and it seems there’s many in this community who are just the same. When the cast included my favourite one-man act, Charlie Ross (One Man Star Wars and One Man Lord of the Rings), I knew everyone in this company are big-time pop culture geeks.
Batman is loved by all. Ross will be putting on his condensed version next year in Vancouver and for Patterson and Radford, they have Arkenham Abbey to treat Victorians with. For the folks who thought Giggling Iguana Productions has left the building without leaving a surprise will be glad to know that Launch Pad is the group who is taking over.
“We were very privileged to have Ian pass this torch to us,” said Patterson, “We will continue to uphold the standard of great Halloween entertainment modelled by Giggling Iguana.”
To truly discover who they are, I had a chance to talk to this couple about their beginnings, their company and what’s in store for this play. When I look at the towering spires at this venue, I’m often wondering if there are bats up there or if a ghost is lurking behind The Castle’s walls.
How did you two first meet?
David and I were both theatre nerds in high school, and probably crossed paths in youth and provincial theatre festivals before ever meeting each other professionally. We met during a production of Much Ado About Nothing in 1994, with Ian Case directing, and every time his character Don Pedro proposed to my character Beatrice in the show, I secretly wished that he was playing Benedick so that my character could say, “Yes.”
I take it you moved around quite a bit?
We both grew up in Victoria, then moved to Toronto, Vancouver, Wells … and eventually back to Victoria in 2008. It was then when we wrote and produced our own work, under the banner of Launch Pad Productions for Theatre SKAM‘s Schoolhouse Rocks, and many other site specific short plays from there (Bike Ride Pine Beetlemania [pictured right] , Transition City, Dial M-for Mer-Murder, Chain Drive-a 10 minute mini bike musical, Crude Dark Matters-The Live Movie, Guiding Spark-The Lightkeeper’s Oath for the Belfry‘s Spark Festival-Mini Plays).
We had been working with Ian Case and Giggling Iguana for years and participated in many Castle Halloween shows. Our first opportunity to work with him came with a show called I Might be Edgar Allan Poe.
Afterwards, as Launch Pad, we collaborated with Ian, co-producing Halloween shows The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which garnered us some attention with an M Award for best site specific production, and Dracula: The Blood is the Life.
Would you say the shows this group puts on is more of a seasonal product? At other times of the year, I see that the members go work with other troupes in shows like Improvised Quentin Tarantino with Paper Street Theatre and this year in an outdoor production during the 2015 Victoria Fringe Festival.
The Castle’s Halloween show is a seasonal product but Launch Pad Productions is a company that creates original dynamic theatre that is diverse in scale, subject, and medium. For example, we did an original sketch comedy Watch for Bones, an action adventure steampunk sci-fi comedy Tara Firm, and a teenage sleuth parody of Cricket Keene.
As actors, we are very involved in all aspects of the theatre scene and happily join forces with other troupes in Victoria. I’m a member of Paper Street Theatre Co., and I was very honoured to be part of the Puente/SNAFU/Theatre SKAM production of Lieutenant Nun!
What kind of themes / tales would you say Launch Pad Productions like to perform overall?
Launch Pad’s themes are dictated by the space we occupy. If in a theatre setting; mostly comedy, if outdoors; then light natured, ecologically themed, if at the Castle at Halloween; then Gothic horror. It really depends on the environment.
How are certain literary works decided upon when they are getting adapted to theatre?
The Castle’s Halloween shows have primarily been adaptations of Victorian stories to suit the environment, hence Dracula and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
With Arkenham Abbey, we wanted to take the Castle show in a slightly new direction, capitalizing on the popularity of the Dark Knight in film, video games, and of course comics, while still remaining true to the architecture and time period of Craigdarroch Castle.
Tara Firm and the Lunar Chronicles is simply a love letter to science fiction from the works of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and the serials of Flash Gordon. It is a project that David has passionately continued to work on and evolve from the day he decided to write a show, with Christina in mind, celebrating a strong female action character role.
With Arkenham, I can understand why there are so many name changes when considering how pricey a license can be from DC Comics. What can people expect?
People can expect that this show will pull out all the stops on every Batman trope. It’s a Batmanesque play and is strictly an homage to the lore of the Dark Knight stories to avoid copyright infringement. Audiences will be exposed to a madhouse gone awry with carnival music, fear toxin, search lights, and of course, references to the 1966 TV series, 1989 Tim Burton film and recent incarnations.
Like past Castle plays, I assume it’ll be interactive and the stairs will be used a lot to move from set to set?
The play will definitely be interactive (no audience participation necessary though) where the audience will follow the action of the story from room to room throughout the beautiful Castle. Not unlike Downton Abbey in 1916 where the Abbey was converted into a hospital for the soldiers, Arkenham Abbey in 1929 is converted into a hospital to house the unethically psychotic.
Part of the plot that’s teased in the advertising is the Feast of Fools. Is that in reference to the festival held during the Middle Ages, or is that in reference to The Court of Owls in Batman literature?
In our version, The Joker inspired character is called ‘The Fool’ and comes from the 78 Tarot deck of cards not the 52 playing deck from the Batman Comics. The Fool card represents delirium and mania so the Feast of Fools is a frenzied feast of fevered fiends that The Dark Knight is invited to join.
For a 75 minute play, how deep is David going to get into the mythos?
Our NightWatchman (Batman) enters the evening as one version of himself, the Bob Kane version and leaves at the end transformed to more of a Frank Miller version. It’s mostly a thrill ride for the Halloween season.
Depending on how successful this play is, what are the plans for future nerdy delights for Victoria to see?
Keep a look out for the Launch Pad nerd signal in the sky. Our Nerdiness is boundless.
Arkenham Abbey will be performed at Craigdarroch Castle from October 15 – 31, 2015. You can purchase tickets online through Craigdarroch Castle’s official site here.