By Rachel Woodward, November 1 2016 —
Sir John Falstaff is a larger-than-life fictional character who made appearances in four Shakespearean plays. His character in Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor is loud and indulgent. While his off-stage death in Henry V left little to the imagination, Canadian playwright John Murrell decided that audiences haven’t seen the last of Falstaff.
Fat Jack Falstaff’s Last Hour will run until Nov. 5 as the 2016–17 season opener for One Yellow Rabbit Theatre.
The world premiere of the play is directed by Blake Brooker and will tell the story of Falstaff’s last hour on earth at the Boar’s Head Inn, accompanied by the innkeeper and her husband.
“He’s a character that is sort of bigger than life. He’s a character who had outsized appetites for everything, including food, drink, mischief and friendship — all manner of things,” Brooker says. “This was the imaginary scene of his death.”
As the language stays true to Shakespearean times, Brooker worked to ensure that audiences can fully grasp the concepts without any prior training in the language.
“It’s a question of getting the language comprehensible to a contemporary audience, because it can be pretty opaque at times and we wanted to make it as transparent as possible and accessible,” he says. “That was one of the challenges and aspirations. It’s kind of retro in a sense of looking into the past, but it has a very contemporary sensibility about its comedy and playfulness.”
Running just over an hour, the play will attempt to recreate the last hour of Falstaff’s life as Murrell imagines it. Murrell’s work is critically acclaimed in Canada, and Fat Jack Falstaff’s Last Hour will be the third play that he has premiered with One Yellow Rabbit. The playwright is also known for his play Taking Shakespeare and Waiting for the Parade. The latter was recently revamped in Calgary by Handsome Alice Theatre 40 years after its premiere in 1977.
Brooker hopes that while audiences enjoy the humour of the story, there is also an element of education.
“It would be great if [audiences] take away that it is history of the U.K. You sort of see that people weren’t cavemen but had quite amazing vocabularies and had a way of communicating that was way more sophisticated than what we have with our — what seems to limited — vocabulary,” he says. “Although we have more ways to communicate than ever, we seem to be communicating in a very simplistic fashion.”
Fat Jack Falstoff’s Last Hour will play until Nov. 5 at the Big Secret Theatre at Arts Commons. Tickets are available online.
For more information, visit oyr.org