Q&A with Governor General award-winning playwright, Colleen Murphy!

Q&A with Governor General award-winning playwright, Colleen Murphy!

Photo by Heidi Hamilton

How did the idea to adapt a Shakespearean text incorporating Bouffon come about?

When Stephen [Drover] asked me to write an adaptation of Titus Andronicus I wondered how to connect with a play I felt was emotionally vacant but intriguing.  “What makes people so angry they kill children?  What is under such rage? Terrible hurt probably, and terrible grief.”

While adapting the play I was the Lee Playwright in Residence at the University of Alberta, working in the same department as Professor Michael Kennard, aka Mump from the incredible duo Mump & Smoot.  Michael teaches clown there and I was inspired by the rigor and the fearlessness he used in his hilarious student presentations.  I felt that given the blood-bath of the 21st century, Bouffon were more suitable to my adaptation because they bring a primal urgency to a story that both begs to be taken seriously and begs not to be taken seriously.

Can you tell us a little bit about the effect that the Bouffon style has on the piece?

The Bouffon style opens up both the emotional and the farcical aspects that are already in Shakespeare’s play.  He must have enjoyed writing it, and there are some beautiful passages, as fine as any he wrote.  The murders and the outrage might even be funny…and the funny is sometimes sad.  The world of revenge is an over-the-top world driven by sad, angry people.

What is something about the show that audiences may be surprised to learn?

Perhaps members of the audience might be surprised to discover that nothing is sacred, that everything is human, including the worse things people do to each other.

Can you describe the show in 3 words?

Fun Meets Death.

What most excites you about bringing this piece to the stage?

Marrying Shakespeare with Bouffon offers another perspective on Titus Andronicus in the 21st century.

Peter Anderson in “The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius”. Photo by Stephen Drover


The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius runs from Nov 22 – Dec 3 at the Cultch’s Historic Theatre. Tickets are from $22 and can be found here.

Everything you never knew about Titus Bouffonius!

Photo of Peter Anderson by Tim Matheson

We’re getting excited about the world premiere of The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius, by Rumble Theatre opening on Nov 23.

This production is a brand-new play from Governor General’s Award-winning playwright Colleen Murphy and it’s a grotesque “bouffon” re-telling of Shakespeare’s most gruesome tragedy, Titus Andronicus.

Now, if you’re familiar with the original play, it won’t surprise you to learn that this version is also full of murder and other dastardly deeds.

Here’s a brief (tongue-in-cheek) synopsis of the play:

Pretty much sums it up!

About her play, Colleen Murphy says, “In the cack-up of the 21st century, clowns are more suitable to my adaptation of Titus Andronicus because they bring a primal urgency to a story that both begs to be taken seriously and begs not to be taken seriously. A bunch of poverty stricken clowns from the gutters acting out their grief and rage at the world; mocking everyone else at the same time”.

“Bouffon”  is a modern French theatre term that was re-coined in the early 1960s by Jacques Lecoq at his L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris to describe a specific style of performance work that has a main focus in the art of mockery.

“The difference between the clown and the bouffon is that while the clown is alone, the bouffon is part of a gang; while we make fun of the clown, the bouffon makes fun of us. At the heart of the bouffon is mockery pushed to the point of parody. The parody isn’t directly offensive with regard to the public; there is no deliberate intention to mock. Bouffons come from elsewhere.”- Jacques LeCoq

We can’t wait to see what Rumble is cooking up. It’s sure to be a provocative and boundary-pushing night at the theatre!


The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius runs from Nov 22 – Dec 3 at the Cultch’s Historic Theatre. Tickets are from $22 and can be found here.

Recap: The 32nd Annual Jessie Awards!

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The 32nd Jessie Award Nominees!

The Commodore Ballroom was filled with theatre folk on Monday, June 23 to celebrate the end of another fantastic Vancouver theatre season at this year’s Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards. The room was loaded with beautiful people, great speeches, and drinks!

A huge congratulations goes out to all the winners and nominees. Some of these people may seem like familiar faces from our 13/14 season! Here’s a quick recap.

The photos are provided by @JessieAwards and @UITATheatre

LARGE THEATRE

Floyd Collins by Patrick Street Production
Jeff Harrison – Outstanding Lighting Design (This is also the first Jessie received by a show at our York Theatre)

SMALL THEATRE

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James Sanders receiving the award on behalf of his dear friend Bob Frazer!

Whose Life Is It Anyway? by Realwheels Theatre
Bob Frazer – Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role
Adrian Muir – Outstanding Lighting Design

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Drew Facey giving his speech after receiving an award

Penelope by Rumble Theatre
Drew Facey – Outstanding Set Design

Uncle Vanya by Blackbird Theatre
Marti Wright – Outstanding Costume Design

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Patrick Sabongui accepting the award on behalf of his Jason Rothery

Inside The Seed by Upintheair Theatre
Richard Wolfe – Outstanding Direction
Jason Patrick Rothery – Outstanding Original Script

Philip Birkby (one of our fantastic on-call electricians!) – Significant Artistic Achievement

THEATRE FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES

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The outstanding design team from Jack and the Bean

Jack and the Bean by Presentation House Theatre
Graham Ockley (one of our regular on-call electricians) – Outstanding Design

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The fantastic Brian Cochrane receiving his award

One of our box office staff members Brian Cochrane received the Ray Michal Prize for Most Promising New Director!

Our Executive Director, Heather Redfern, gathered with other members from the arts community attending the Magnetic North Festival in Halifax to cheer for The Jessies

Our Executive Director, Heather Redfern gathered with other members from the arts community attending the Magnetic North Festival in Halifax to cheer for the Jessies

Nominations for the 32nd annual Jessie Richardson Awards

It’s that time of  year again – Jessie Award season! The nominations for the 32nd annual Jessie Richardson Awards were announced this week, and four productions from our 13/14 season have been nominated! The Jessie Awards celebrate and promote the outstanding achievements of the Vancouver professional theatre community. Congratulations to all the nominees, we can’t wait to hear the results! The shows from our 13/14 season that got nominated are listed below in their respective categories.

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Whose Life Is It Anyway? – Realwheels Theatre

Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role – Small Theatre
Bob Frazer, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Realwheels Theatre

Outstanding Performance by and Actress in a Supporting Role – Small Theatre
Jennifer Lines, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Realwheels Theatre

Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – Small Theatre
Kyle Jesperson, Penelope, Rumble Theatre

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Uncle Vanya – Blackbird Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design – Small Theatre
Adrian Muir, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Realwheels Theatre
Alan Brodie, Uncle Vanya, Blackbird Theatre

Outstanding Set Design – Small Theatre
Drew Facey, Penelope, Rumble Theatre
Jergus Oprsal, Inside The Seed, Up in the Air Theatre
Pam Johnson, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Realwheels Theatre

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Penelope – Rumble Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design – Small Theatre
Marti Wright, Uncle Vanya, Blackbird Theatre
Drew Facey, Penelope, Rumble Theatre

Outstanding Direction – Small Theatre
John Cooper, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Realwheels Theatre
Richard Wolfe, Inside The Seed, Up in the Air Theatre

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Inside The Seed – Up in the Air Theatre

Outstanding Production – Small Theatre
Inside The Seed, Up in the Air Theatre
Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Realwheels Theatre

Significant Artistic Achievement – Small Theatre
Inside The Seed, Up in the Air Theatre

Outstanding Original Script
Jason Rothery, Inside The Seed, Up in the Air Theatre

To see a full list of the nominations, visit the Jessies website. The awards ceremony will take place on Monday, June 23 at the Commodore Ballroom. For tickets, click here.

Beckett + Greek mythology + The Bachelorette?

In just two weeks, our 40th anniversary season kicks off with the Canadian premiere of Penelope, Enda Walsh’s critically acclaimed take on Homer’s The Odyssey. Brought to you by Rumble Theatre, the team behind The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, this show promises to be the first hit of the 13/14 season! We asked Stephen Drover, the show’s director and Rumble’s Artistic Director, to tell us a little bit about this extravagantly imaginative tale:

“In 2010, the Oberhausen Theatre in Germany was interested in exploring Homer’s The Odyssey and commissioned five playwrights to create new plays based on the epic poem. One of those five, Enda Walsh, was not very keen on the heroic journeys of the superhuman Odysseus nor his intrepid son Telemachus. Instead he was drawn to the degenerate bunch of suitors camping out at Odysseus’ home, trying to win the love of his hapless wife, Penelope. The result is a play that connects an ancient story with a contemporary sensibility and explores the surprising complexity of the story’s minor characters. For me, the play is an exciting intersection of the work of Samuel Beckett, the narratives of Greek mythology, and reality TV tropes like The Bachelorette and Big Brother. Its rich language and brutish male posturing form an odd marriage of the beautiful and brutal. The characters have realized that they are somewhat inconsequential – that the gods have forgotten about them – and they have constructed a complex and deluded game to give their lives meaning. From a certain perspective, I cannot help but sympathize.”

Stephen Drover is the Artistic Director of Rumble Theatre. As founding Artistic Director for Pound of Flesh Theatre, he adapted and/or directed The Bond, Macbeth, DenmarK (adapted from Hamlet), co-directed Everyone (at the Caravan Farm Theatre), and most recently directed The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at The Cultch. Other directing credits include: Romeo & Juliet, Leaving Home and Of the Fields, Lately (Theatre Newfoundland Labrador), PolitoKo (Ghost River Theatre), Boston Marriage (Guild Theatre, Whitehorse), The Pillowman (Wild Geese Co-op), The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (Carousel Theatre), and Skydive (Realwheels – for which he shares a Jessie Award for Outstanding Direction with Roy Surette). He lives in East Van with his wife, Sasa Brown, and their son, Jack.

Penelope runs from Sept 25 to October 13 at The Cultch’s Historic Theatre. Get your tickets before it’s too late!

Tickets start at $18 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St.