Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan


Excellent dramatic and comic sleight of hand in a murder mystery

I recently took in Corpse at Port Colborne's Showboat Festival Theatre, great summer theatre with an impressive performance by Bruce Davies (see below) and a more than capable supporting cast which included Jonathan Ellul, Melanie Janzen and Phil McLaren. Congratulations to all for keeping this worthwhile, accessible theatre in Niagara.

The play is billed as Sleuth mixed with Deathtrap and farce, and it delivers unpredictable turns to the very end. Set in London in 1936, it tells the story of twin brothers, one of whom plots to murder the other in novel fashion. Evelyn, an unemployed actor, with theatrical flair and a penchant for dressing in myriad exotic costumes, including those of a lady, employs "Major" Powell, burdened with a shady past, to shoot his rich twin, Rupert.

The intrigue in Evelyn's constricted apartment is frequently interupted by visits from the humorous landlady who enjoys a drink...or two. And as one might imagine, everything goes wrong with the plot that can!

The set designed by Beckie Morris was perfect for multiple body changes, and after a while, it's hard to remember who is Evelyn and who is Rupert, just as Gerald Moon, the clever playwright designed it.

Notes from the program -

Bruce Davies prepares for the most challenging role of his career by Nicole Campbell

The talented and unforgettable Bruce Davies seamlessly portrayed 15 various characters in his astounding performance of The 39 Steps at Showboat Festival Theatre in 2013. He returns this summer to tackle what he refers to as his most challenging role to date in SFTs first show of the season Corpse!, opening June 17th.

Understand the motivations of a murderer. There are few careers where this statement would be a job requirement, but for actor Bruce Davies it's a crucial element to perfecting his work. Knowledge of one's motives is essential in creating a genuine persona that an audience will not only believe, but also develop an emotional bond with.

"As an actor, I get the opportunity to explore and understand the motivation and actions of others. It gives me a chance to get a perspective of people's lives that I otherwise wouldn't. I try and understand what it might be like to be a farmer, politician, lawyer... or in this case, a murderer."

Corpse! follows the tale of a troubled twin and sociopath Evelyn Farrant, who plots to murder his identical brother, Rupert. Both roles are played by Davies. The hijinks that ensue in this zany masterpiece create a bed of mystery that won't truly be unveiled until the very end. This murderous, carefully executed, hilarious whodunit will have audiences in shambles trying to solve the absurd family dynamics that unfold before them.

Davies specifically auditioned for this role, as he was "blown away by the premise, structure and writing" of the script and character development. "It's been a pleasure to learn, because it's so well written." Davies has been studying the role for the past couple of months to understand how his character should behave and why, before meeting the rest of the cast.

For Davies, playing multiple characters within the same play is not an unusual task and he admits that this type of casting is what he looks forward to most as an actor. "My biggest challenge is to create enough similarities between the two characters, while ensuring the audience recognizes their differences; both physically and vocally." Davies shares. "But also - Evelyn has schizophrenic tendencies. He talks to himself in different voices, believing to be 3 people at any given time. I love the challenge!"

For the audience to truly follow along, the role has to be believable, and that is what Davies always aims to achieve. He feels that understanding the 'why' behind the character's actions is incumbent in captivating an audience. "Live theatre allows you to transport an audience into the real time and place of a story," explains Davies. "The audience is right there with you, experiencing everything with your character in real time - it's like a 3 dimensional, heightened reality."

Davies is thrilled to be back in Port Colborne. "Showboat is one of the most supportive and respectful environments for an actor to be a part of," admits Davies. ""Derek Ritschel (Showboat Festival Theatre's Artistic Director and Director of Corpse!) is an incredible actor and, in turn, is an actor's director - which is a valuable asset in this industry."

Showboat Festival Theatre:

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