By Troy Hasselman, March 22 2019 —
Vertigo Theatre has announced what is sure to be an eventful 2019–20 season, including fare from local artists, original plays, adaptations and three world premières.
“The Vertigo Theatre has been around for over 40 years doing exclusively mystery plays. We’re the only full-time, season-based mystery theatre in the world,” says Vertigo Theatre creative director Craig Hall. “The mystery series has a broad range. We do everything from ghost stories to whodunnits to detective pieces. We even do farces and musicals that fall into the genre. Anything you could think of in that range of work we have access to.”
Especially exciting for the theatre this season is the première of three new plays, including two original plays from local writers.
“We’ve got a new play called Cypher that is a contemporary conspiracy-thriller from local writers Braden Griffiths and Ellen Close. This is a push for us to expand into more contemporary work that has a relevance and to increase the diversity on our stages,” Hall says. “We also have a new commission from a playwright named Anna Cummer. It’s a Victorian ghost story but it’s a ghost story with heart so we’re gonna scare you before we make you cry a little.”
On top of the original plays being premiered from local writers Vertigo Theatre is also premiering Sherlock Holmes and the Raven’s Curse, an original Sherlock Holmes story by playwright R. Hamilton Wright, based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
“It’s a brand-new original Sherlock Holmes story. The last Holmes story we did was The American Problem, also by Wright. He has done a number of adaptations of existing Holmes’ stories and this is his second original adaptation,” Hall says. “He’s got a real eye for the character and makes them quirkier, bringing life beyond the originals in a really interesting, theatrical way.”
Staging a play with the Sherlock Holmes character alongside works by local playwrights shows the variety that Vertigo Theatre has in how it presents its works — mixing in plays with wholly original plotlines with works that are more familiar to audiences.
“We delve into the history of the genre and mine those works because people love and know them and their names definitely get people out to the theatre,” says Hall. “Our audience is just as attracted to something that they haven’t seen before. We try and balance the old and the new and the known and the unknown. I think we have a great deal of loyalty from our audience because we still keep two feet firmly in the genre even while we’re evolving and expanding the range of what we do.”
The variety present in the season was evident when Hall highlighted a few of the upcoming works he is particularly excited for, listing plays by local artists, adaptations of classic mystery novels and board games.
“I’m a huge fan of Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, which had one of the finest stage adaptations of a thriller that exists, done by Craig Warner. I’d use it as an example for our new writers that are working in the genre. The excellence of that and the excellence of the team that we’ve got for that show is super exciting to me,” says Hall. “I think Cypher is something that’s going to be different for our audiences and we’re excited about that. The story is very contemporary and set in Canada, involving CSIS. It’s a story that’s happening right now. That’s exciting and quite rare for us.”
Vertigo Theatre is promoting inclusivity in the theatre scene by offering stronger, more contemporary roles and increased diversity in the plays they are running.
“I don’t see Vertigo’s job as breaking new ground all the time,” says Hall. “Ultimately we’re out to entertain. But we certainly want to reflect the society that we’re living in and the population of the city more than we have historically in Western theatre. As we’re entertaining, we also want to be commenting on what is relevant. Otherwise we become ‘museum theatre’ and we certainly don’t want to be that.”
The 2019–20 Vertigo Theatre season will begin in September and run through June. Information about each play and its running dates, as well as information on ticketing, can be found on the Vertigo Theatre website.