Croi8: bringing Blackadder to the stage

AS PART of a cunning plan to raise money for Comic Relief, local company Croi8 Productions is presenting the Irish stage premiere of classic TV comedy Blackadder at the Town Hall next week.

Local audiences can look forward to experiencing again the dimness of Baldrick, the utter patheticness of Lord Percy Percy, Lord Melchett’s diabolical practical jokes, and the firm fruitiness of Nursie in glorious Galway-vision.

At the heart of all the action is the conniving Lord Edmund Blackadder, with many a cunning plan for wine, women, and wealth. Yet in the reign of the childishly insane Queen Elizabeth I, he must first strive to keep his head.

First aired in 1983, Blackadder went through four series, ending in 1989, and became one of Britain’s best-loved TV comedies. A 2004 TV poll voted it the second-best British sitcom of all time, topped by Only Fools and Horses. The show was created by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson while Ben Elton came on board as co-writer from the second series onwards.

Devotees of the series will recognise from the names checklisted above that Croi8’s production of Blackadder draws on the show’s superb second series set during the Elizabethan era. Croi8’s Alex Perry, who both directs and adapted the show, explains how he went about the task of bringing it to the stage.

“We’ve kept as much of the original dialogue as possible,” he begins. “I’d say we’ve retained about 85 per cent of the original script. It was necessary to make a few changes here and there, mainly to cover things like costume changes or where the script featured camera tricks that couldn’t be replicated on stage.

“What we would do then was perhaps change the scene order slightly or add a few lines from another episode – such as one of Blackadder’s typical put-downs of Baldrick - to ensure the scene worked theatrically.”

Croi8’s staging features two episodes from Blackadder II, namely ‘Bells’ and ‘Money’.

In ‘Bells’, Blackadder employs a young man called ‘Bob’ (who is actually a woman in disguise ) whom he finds himself strongly attracted to, much to his confusion and dismay. Once he discovers that ‘Bob’ is actually Kate, he plans to marry her, only to have her elope with his best man, Lord Flashheart.

In ‘Money’, Blackadder is pursued by the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells over an unpaid loan and is forced to formulate ingenious ways to make money.

Interestingly, Croi8 have cast two actors to play Edmund Blackadder.

“Blackadder has the bulk of all the lines in the script and I felt it might be unfair to ask one actor to take all that on,” says Alex. “Also if the actor was taken ill we obviously wouldn’t be able to go ahead with the show. So we decided to use two actors - Patrick McEneaney and Callan Creaven who each take the lead in one episode while also serving as each other’s understudy for the episode in which they are not cast.”

Also featuring in the cast are Robert Duffy (Baldrick ), Sarah McWalter (Queenie ), and Alan Keogh (Lord Melchett ).

As mentioned at the start of this article the production is a benefit for Comic Relief. Croi8 have already run a successful Blackadder table quiz in The King’s Head and, between the quiz and the play, are on course to raise more than €1,000 for this worthy cause.

Croi8 are also one of only two Irish companies to be chosen by the Royal Shakespeare Company for its 2012 Open Stages pro/am theatre project. This will see members of the company receive masterclasses from RSC professionals prior to presenting a performance at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre.

While that represents a feather in the company hat and an experience they are all looking forward to, Galway audiences can look forward with relish to the merriment and mayhem of Blackadder.

Blackadder runs at the Town Hall studio from Thursday June 9 to Saturday 11 at 8pm. Tickets are €10 and available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie

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