By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Nov 27 & 28, 2015
1609 Blanshard St #2
Victoria, BC, Canada
Feb 18 -21, 2016
1412 Cartwright St.
Vancouver BC, Canada
Charles Ross, the One Man Virtuoso of the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings (LotR) stage has a new act! In One Man Dark Knight: A Batman Parody, he will be presenting his take of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy into a reduced format that will play out for an hour. Trying to figure out what trilogy to tackle next was difficult for this performer.
“It took a lot of time to figure out what I wanted to do as my next show. I wanted to find another Star Wars / Lord of the Rings type of film to adapt, and Nolan’s take on Batman was the only one that for me — pound for pound — I was really happy with,” said Ross.
In a prior interview with me for Absolute Underground (revised and reprinted here), he revealed what the story comes down to is about a disenfranchised person who’s least able to affect much change in his station in life. Like Frodo, a guy that lives in the Shire, or Luke Skywalker, a kid from a farm on the planet Tatooine, adventure comes to their front door. It whisks them away.
One Man Dark Knight began its genesis during March of this year, and Ross presented its early version when in Charleston, South Carolina last May. He also tested it with audiences in Winnipeg as a one-off. In Victoria, BC, this performance is part of Intrepid Theatre’s fundraiser for the arts. Future shows include a four-day long presentation at the Waterfront Theatre in Vancouver and more bookings are planned. An East Coast show includes a run at the famous Birchmere Music Hall located in Alexandria, Virginia.
Ross reveals that Bruce Wayne has to vest himself with this power before he can truly be the Batman. “He has to become a street urchin. That’s the tact the [first] film takes,” said Ross, “He arrives at Ra’s al Ghul‘s lair in the mountains barely able to stand up for himself. He has nothing more than a flower and his need for — in his mind — revenge to strike fear into the hearts of criminals.
“When he was tossed into isolation at the prison camp, Ra’s came to him to suggest a way out. So, just like Luke, just like Frodo, a lot of who they are [in what they feel] will affect in their ability to quickly succeed or not.”
In Ross’ analysis of the character, Bruce Wayne is wonderfully complex. He makes massive mistakes all the time during his transformation. Just like the main hero from his previous shows, the success comes from those people who work with the protagonist that helps him succeed.
“If Bruce Wayne didn’t have those people (Alfred Pennyworth and Commissioner Gordon) to get him back into the game continually, he wouldn’t be in it at all. I think that’s the similarity I see in each of those stories,” noted Ross.
“It’s all about how the little plot elements all comes together in the film,” said Ross. “I found that I had to get past all the clever bits that makes the caper story work. I had to focus on Bruce Wayne’s rise from nothing to hero. [In the first film,] he gets rid of his money and identity in order to learn about who he is and etc, much like Luke and Frodo.
“And there’s also getting to sink my teeth into all the wonderful villain roles in the films. I had fun developing Bane,” smiled Ross.
This performer says some of these characters just need to be made fun of in a good way, a happy way. In his performance, he will have to channel 25 different personas. In addition to the aforementioned list, Harvey Dent (Two Face), The Joker, Scarecrow and Selena Kyle will make appearances. But just how nubile will Catwoman be?
“My relationship with the Batman films comes down to my love. I really enjoyed the first two,” said Ross.
When asked about how many times he had to watch the movies, this performer said that he did not feel like he was being let down by the story choices Nolan made. What was penned by him, his brother Jonathan and David S. Goyer is rich with a lot of detail. Ross was able to come at it from a viewer’s perspective and he wore out his copies (as hard as that is to do) of these films at the same time.
“I had to replace Batman Begins twice; watched two different versions of The Dark Knight and kept The Dark Knight Rises on my computer. Other than having a copy I destroyed on a jump drive, it’s been okay,” laughed Ross.
“When the third film came out, I had a really hard time going to see it because I couldn’t help but think about what happened during opening night at Aurora, Colorado during the midnight show; the shooting that occurred was a supervillain style of craziness. Sadly, there was no real Batman, no real vigilante, to save the people [from this real act of terrorism]. I have to realize that what happened has nothing to do with the films or what Batman represents. It’s still a terrible experience. I had to move on,” mused Ross.
This performer agrees that the world could benefit from having real-life superheroes. Normal every day types, like Batman, is the type that resonates with fans because he uses his intellect and athleticism to get him out of tough situations. The world of comic books and movies are products made to offer escapism from the everyday. Quite often, they cater more to the child in us all to thrill for instead of reading deep into. According to Ross, there seems to be not as many Batman fans as there are Star Wars or LotR.
“That’s not to say there’s not a lot of them already, but y’know every person that harbours a close love for Batman may well fancy themselves as Batman. They stay in the shadows, they rely upon more of themselves [to get by in life] and they don’t get in the limelight much. If everybody was a Batman, nobody would need saving,” said Ross. “They’d be home in their caves.”
This actor is fine with that, because he can be the one who will get on stage to do the job. He is the that bard, that master storyteller, who’s up to facing the many challenges life presents itself, including working out the bugs in this relatively new show. That also includes creating a Clown Prince of Crime that everybody will like. His presentation will not necessarily be exactly like Heath Ledger‘s, but close. He has a massive but yet small kind of voice, according to Ross. Additionally, Ledger may have breathed through his mouth, and may have smoked at the time. “I found that only when my voice is really warmed up, what I channel as The Joker is ragged,” said Ross.
Unlike his past shows, this performer realizes that he has to be careful in how the material is presented. Because of the choices made in the film, the leaps in logic and the loopholes found in the movies has to be exploited and joked at. And this show has a lot more of Ross’ own original material in it to play out. He said, “It’s scary to try something new. I’ve put the pressure on myself to be at a certain level coming in, and it took a long time to get [One Man Star Wars and Lord of the Rings] to a place where I’m happy with.
“You’ll get to enjoy this show, warts and all. That’s a good place to be at because sometimes we do need to learn how to fall, flat on our face. And, for me, hopefully not humiliate myself at the same time,” grinned Ross.