RDC Theatre Studies presents thriller — Land of the Dead

Call it a “plague of maddening blood lust,” or blame it on afflicted “humours.”

Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff-

Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff-

Call it a “plague of maddening blood lust,” or blame it on afflicted “humours.”

But William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead opened on Thursday with ample moaning, groaning, and foot-dragging as victims of some mysterious “affliction” began scratching at the door of the Globe Theatre in London — apparently dying to get in.

And those snarling, pasty-faced gate crashers weren’t even the most campy characters in this well-executed Red Deer College Theatre Studies production that’s running in Studio A of the RDC Arts Centre.

There’s a ruff-necked Queen Elizabeth I (excellently played by Emily Cupples), whose plummy accent was delivered in a high-pitched drawl reminiscent of another Elizabeth Rex we know.

There’s the Queen’s Counsel, Sir Frances Bacon (Rina Pelletier in a remarkably androgynous performance), whose pomposity was matched only by his pretension. (“An ixillent idea,” Bacon intoned, before stabbing a zombified actor with his rapier and leaving others to dispose of the body.)

And there’s Shakespeare’s ragtag company of thespians, including James Burbage (Richie Jackson) and Will Kemp (Nate Rehman), who were — well … capital-A actors in the truest sense.

Kemp is such as ‘look at me! look at me!’ grandstander that he actually wears bells to announce his entrance. Even Will Shakespeare is fed up, kicking Kemp out of the company and becoming dismayed at his reappearance at the beginning of this thriller, which was written by U.S. playwright John Heimbuch.

But Will soon has to deal with more pressing issues — London Bridge has fallen down, prompting an unexpected visit from the Queen and her entourage in the midst of a bizarre plague. Suddenly there are bigger dilemmas than ridding himself of his nemesis, Kemp.

William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead proved to be both an interesting and perplexing amalgam at Wednesday’s dress rehearsal.

There was flowery Elizabethan language aplenty, including punny verbal throws to various Shakespearian plays that made followers of The Bard knowingly chortle.

There was a sword fight, and adequate gnarling, biting and Halloween zombie gore to appease fans of shows like The Walking Dead.

But at the same time, this wordy play also featured a long period of inactivity in the second act in which Will Shakespeare (played in low-key, straight-man style by Evan Macleod) remained motionless and tied to a chair. The only other actors on stage, Burbage and the Queen’s alchemist, Doctor Dee (Erin Pettifor), were either starting to dose or were already asleep — so it’s a wonder the audience members didn’t opt for a little shut eye, too.

Fortunately, this scene that seemed so out of place in an Elizabethan world turned on its head by a “plague of blood lust,” was followed by a satisfying finale involving (yay!) more zombies.

But what really saved the day was the talented company of second-year students, under the guest direction of Kelly Reay.

This was one of the best-acted college plays I’ve seen in a long time. The young thespians weren’t afraid to go big and create some satisfying, memorable characters — such as the aforementioned Queen, Bacon, Kemp, Burbage, as well as the young apprentice actor John Rice, who’s cast in female roles in the company (and is mind-bendingly played by a woman, Robyn Jeffrey).

While a couple of people could slow down and deepen their voices to be fully comprehended, we could mostly sit back and enjoy this wacky, house of horrors ride.

Another bonus was the intimate theatre space. Studio A was decked out in fabulous Tudor-style by set designer Cindi Zuby, and lush Elizabethan costumes by Donna Jopp also helped transport us back to the 16th century.

Plagues have come and gone throughout the years, with the latest real-life fears centring on West Africa’s Ebola outbreak.

Since no epidemic is ever going to be as fun as a plague of zombies, you might want some escapist thrills by checking out William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead. (It’s especially for lovers of The Bard and/or the living dead.)

The play runs to Oct. 18.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo, an iPhone displays the Facebook app in New Orleans. Facebook says it’s going all in to block the spread of bogus vaccine claims. In practice, that means the social network plans to ban a new bunch of false claims in addition to the old bunch of false claims about vaccines or COVID-19 that it has already banned. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)
Facebook says it will pay $1B over 3 years to news industry

Facebook says it will choose which publishers it will support

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

NDP and Liberals both promised some kind of pharmacare program

Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Art McDonald is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Admiral Art McDonald has voluntarily stepped down as Chief of Defence Staff due to an investigation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Admiral Art McDonald steps aside as defence chief amid investigation

Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre appointed acting chief of the defence staff

Meteor spotted over Edmonton, Alta., on Feb. 22, 2021 by several, who took to social media to share their surveillance camera captures. (@KixxAxe/Twitter)
VIDEO: Fireball meteor streaks across sky, spotted by early-morning risers in Alberta, B.C.

Videos of the quick streak of light flashing across the sky before 6:30 a.m. MST

Photo radar cameras are supposed to “augment” the work of regular police officers, yet 91 per cent of speeding tickets in the province are connected to the devices. (Black Press file photo).
March photo radar locations

Photo radar, mobile units and intersection cameras will be in action

Mike Ammeter (Photo by Rebecca Hadfield)
Sylvan Lake man elected chair of Canadian Canola Growers Association

Mike Ammeter is a local farmer located near the Town of Sylvan Lake

FILE - The Paramount Pictures gate is pictured on Aug. 23, 2016, in Los Angeles. The studio is joining other major Hollywood studios in slashing the traditional 90-day theatrical window. ViacomCBS on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, announced that the studio’s films, including “Mission: Impossible 7” and “A Quiet Place Part II,” will go to its fledgling streaming service, Paramount+, after 45 days in theaters. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
‘Mission: Impossible 7’ will hit Paramount+ even sooner

90-day theatrical window reduced to 45 days

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson yells to her sweepers at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Defending champion Einarson stays unbeaten in Tournament of Hearts

Players suggest a spectator-free debut made it less intimidating

Tiger Woods hits out of a bunker on the 17th hole on his way to winning the Canadian Open Championship at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont. on Sunday Sept.10, 2000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘The Tiger I know is a survivor and a fighter,’ Bill Paul weighs in on Tiger Woods

Woods was hospitalized after a single-vehicle crash near Los Angeles on Tuesday

Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich (33) makes a save on Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Jimmy Vesey (26) as Flames' Christopher Tanev (8) and Joakim Nordstrom (20) defend during first-period NHL action in Toronto on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘Misunderstood’ Nylander ties game late, scores winner as Leafs beat Flames 2-1 in OT

‘Misunderstood’ Nylander ties game late, scores winner as Leafs beat Flames 2-1 in OT

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson yells to her sweepers at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Young Quebec team in the hunt to join Einarson, Homan in Hearts’ championship round

Young Quebec team in the hunt to join Einarson, Homan in Hearts’ championship round

Most Read