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Vancouver Theater: We Know Nothing

I’m not sure when I got my first copy of Game of Thrones. I think it was in Toronto, a little light reading for the plane ride home to Vancouver. Those of you that’ve read it know that Game of Thrones is not a little light anything; it’s a bloody tome, and the wait between volumes is equal to the weight of each of those books. Both are infuriating, and it’s one of the reasons I’m loving the TV show so much – at least there’s a chance for resolution there. Maybe. Possibly.

I suppose we’ll have to wait and find out.

Madhouse Productions has decided to chime in on this, both in terms of the stories themselves and the wait between books and seasons, with their inaugural production. We Know Nothing is a humorous look at both George R.R. Martin and the series he has inspired, as the Great Bearded Glacier meets and greets us. His plan is to introduce us to five characters that ended up on the editing room floor in a series of monologues by those characters, one from each of the published novels.

There is a secret sixth monologue from a character guaranteed to maybe be in the sixth book, but it is a secret part of the performance and not to be shared with outsiders. Only by going will you learn about this new addition to the cast, and find out what George R.R. Martin has in store for his characters.

We get a simple enough set up; Ruel Morales plays guitar and adds music all the way through the performance, starting with a stirring rendition of the Game of Thrones theme. He’s a simple but impressive addition to the ensemble, providing an audio backdrop to the proceedings. His ability to mimic other instruments when he’s not touching his own is inspiring, and sorcery worth of the Red Witch.

Troll!

Troll!

The whole of the performance is tied together by George R.R. Martin (Michael McIntyre). The performance here has to be strong enough to not only introduce the concept and build the narrative, but tie the diverse characters together and give them a connection to the series. The part is played to perfection, as George seems pleased to troll the audience, his editors, and his characters with a quiet glee that mimics that of the true author perfectly.

What follows are a series of characters and performances that lovingly mock the series as a whole, offering criticism of the narrative and structure and drawn out story, the preponderance of characters, the reliance on food and sex and tragedy to bring people in and keep them hooked. Each character lampoons moments within the books they’re from while hinting at the hilarity to come.

The Seer of Essos (Kenneth Tynan) is a Dothraki witch and soothsayer who gets to talk about dragons and Khaleesis and other things beside, talking about both the series and the monologues to come. Like all good prophets, she comes across as half-crazed and confused, but if you know what she’s talking about her madness becomes a peculiar sort of genius, instead. Her stubborn refusal to die at the end is played for laughs and quite effectively, mingling the tragedy the series is known for with the comedy Madhouse does so well.

For the second book, we’re introduced to the Romeo of Flea Bottom (Ryan Hache). Flea Bottom is where the lowest of the low live in King’s Landing, and the Romeo acts as the poor man’s Little Finger; he knows secrets, yes, but only about who is screwing who, and in what sort of ways he himself has been screwed. The whorishness of Westeros is explored in detail, and mad ways in which the Westerosi get themselves and one another off, mingled with the weird prudishness of high society. It’s good times.

All this takes about forty minutes, and leads us to the climax of the first act: the Red Wedding Singer (Nathanial Gordon). You know there was one, right? Every good wedding has an MC, and George himself admits that this character was the result of too much food and binge watching Adam Sandler movies. We get song and stand up, traditional fool fare that lampoons the various noble houses, hints at the betrayal to come, and plays upon series lore in the best possible way.

You have never seen a more paranoid audience.

You have never seen a more paranoid audience.

The segment ends with Ruel Morales playing the Rains of Castamere to signal the intermission, and the audience reaction was fantastic; primed by the Red Wedding Singer and that haunting melody, we all shuffled around, waiting for an attack that would never come. It’s a tribute to how effective both the season three climax was, and how brilliantly the previous three characters had immersed us in their world.

It also helps that George wandered off stage at this point, a knowing and evil look on his face.

His return was met with relieved smiles, his opening diatribe one that will delight feminists and those of us that enjoy strong characters that happen to be female. The Sand Snakes get a just amount of love from the fanbase, and Oberyn remains one of the most beloved characters we’ve seen on the small screen in some time. So, when Susan the Other Sand Snake (Chelsey Stuyt) takes the stage, there’s a sense of hope that quickly becomes the best sort of tragic comedy.

On a personal note… this segment dips into embarrassment humor, which is generally something I don’t find entertaining in the least, but it’s the concept of embarrassment humor that is being mocked here and the actress puts in such a strong performance that it becomes difficult not to love and feel for Susan, and impossible to keep a straight face throughout this monologue. This was, I think, the strongest performance in the show, though not where the show peaked.

George leaves behind a Feast for Crows and brings us to a Dance of Dragons with a character aptly named the Jackass on the Wall (Al Dales). Jon Snow is a polarizing figure: on one hand, he’s a bland ponce with an overabundance of plot armor and clear author favortism, while on the other hand he’s played by Kit Harrington. The fanbase both loves and hates him, and this character gives us insight into how badly, in-world, people perceive Ned Stark’s Bastard.

As was foretold.

As was foretold.

Which brings us to the Secret Character, whose name and presence I must not spoil. It is a stirring performance from one man, a powerhouse that ties all that came before together while commenting on the changing nature of what it is to be a fan, and how fans interact with the properties that they obsess over. We’ve come a long way from the days when Star Wars fan fiction writers were hunted like rabid dogs, and I have yet to see a performance that captures the insanity of fan created content better than this one.

And that’s it. The show runs two hours long for another two days – November 14-15, 2015, starting at 7pm and running til 9pm. It’s well worth seeing as winter comes, a means of staving off longer nights that are increasingly full of terrors and filling them with thoughtful laughter instead. You can and should be tickets by clicking here.

We know nothing except that we had a good time, and isn’t that a sort of magic in and of itself?

Susan thinks so.

Susan thinks so, but what does she know? Nothing.

If you can't say something nice, just don't feed the trolls