Volume 92, Issue 84
Tuesday, March 9, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Off with their bloody heads, medieval dude
Gazette File Photo
By Aaron Wherry
The modern workplace can be stressful for anyone. But if you think you have it rough, try being the king's executioner in old England.
Such is the premise behind Arc of the Axe, presented by Three Black Ring at the Old Factory Theatre. The neurotic decapitator in this case is Eric Littledove, played by Jayson McDonald, who struggles with personal demons and the haunting images of all the men he has killed in the course of doing his job.
Complicating this situation even more is the fact that Littledove's friend, Hex Epitaph and lover Mandy Protean are leading a rebellion against his boss, the king. His royal highness King Panic in turn loses complete control of his kingdom so he orders for all of his servants and associates involved with the rebellion executed.
As a result Littledove is forced to cut short the lives of nearly everyone in his life and the pain slices too deep for his sanity to hold up.
Despite the dark subject matter, McDonald, who also acted as writer, riddles the dialogue with sarcastic wit, double entendres and humorous banter. Taking a page out of the "Tarantino Guide to Success," he makes it hard to refrain from chuckling even while heads are rolling.
These injections of humour, along with the acting of McDonald, keep this play entertaining and interesting. Solid acting by the supporting cast, especially Rachel Jones as Mandy and Mike Wilmot as the King are also strong points for this ambitious play.
However, as much as the sarcasm and puns make the dialogue unique, the exchanges between actors destroy the play's foundation.
Despite the setting of old England, director Jeff Culbert and McDonald decide to approach the conversation in the play with a '90s twist. As a result the characters come off silly, unintelligent and foolish at times. It is simply not believable to have the phrase "whatever" spoken during a time when Shakespearean English seems more appropriate.
The same amount of dark humour could have been accomplished using time-appropriate language and the result would have produced a far more realistic and entertaining play. Instead the play is a dumbed-down version of a Shakespearean comedy, designed to appeal to a young and modern audience unaccustomed to anything more theatrical than Beverley Hills 90210.
This overshadows the ability of the actors to accomplish so much without the benefit of a large budget, elaborate props or huge facility. The few props used, along with lighting and musical effects are used intelligently and maximized to help convey the dark and morbid themes of this play.
Despite the flaws, Arc of the Axe remains well worth seeing. If not for its handling of the ominous subject matter, its questioning of religion and the divine right of kings, then for McDonald's performance. His acting is superb and his writing seems full of potential in need of the proper outlet.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999