As The Blue Dragon moves from theatre script to graphic novel, the Canadian creators of Kill Shakespeare, Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery, are looking to take their comic books in the opposite direction. This weekend, Toronto's Word Festival will present a stage adaptation of the entire 12-issue series that throws the Bard's greatest heroes and villains – from Hamlet to Richard III – into a fantasy adventure.
Soulpepper company members Brendan Wall, Rick Roberts and Michelle Monteith will voice characters such as Romeo, Falstaff and Juliet, while Andy Belanger's illustrations from the comics are projected behind them. "It's kind of cool to take it to where Shakespeare started," notes Del Col, who will be on hand to select the images and contribute certain sound effects in his debut as a foley artist.
Since Kill Shakespeare was first published last year, Del Col and his creative partner have been repeatedly approached by artists who would like to adapt the comics into a play, musical or film. In musical theatre, there are certainly plenty of previous examples to draw on – from You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (resurfacing at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival next summer) to Annie (based on the Harold Gray strips) to the current big-budget Broadway hit Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. (Indeed, Julie Taymor, ousted director of Spider-Man, is one of the powerful names who has expressed interest in Kill Shakespeare.) For now, Del Col, a 34-year-old originally from Timmins, Ont., who became a fan of Shakespeare thanks to a great high-school English teacher and field trips to Stratford, chose to develop the work with Soulpepper after being approached by artistic director Albert Schultz and consultant Don Shipley.
Derek Boyes, who is directing Kill Shakespeare at the Word festival, is excited about how the comics have interested a new audience in Shakespeare – and hopes Soulpepper will eventually turn it into a full production. "I have a feeling [Del Col and McCreery]want to go to Broadway," he says. "This may be a launch pad for what it can be theatrically."
J. Kelly Nestruck