Inclusive Theatre: The Ridiculous Darkness

The Ridiculous Darkness explores the necessity to understand one another. | Photo by Wendy Dee

Alley theatre, in partnership with Neworld Theatre, presents the North American premiere of The Ridiculous Darkness showing from Nov. 11–19 at the ANNEX.

The Ridiculous Darkness is a German radio play by Wolfram Lotz, written as a satirical work influenced by both the film Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness, a novella written by Polish-British novelist Joseph Conrad in 1899.

The play, translated into English by Daniel Brunet won the German Play of the Year and Dramatist of the Year awards since its first stage adaptation in 2015.

Challenging the notion of ‘foreign’

The play begins with a Somali man who seeks understanding after being charged with piracy. The show then follows two German soldiers as they struggle with their assumptions of people different from themselves. The final moment of the show leaves the audience with the message that attempting to understand and connect with ‘others’ is what ultimately keeps the audience sane.

“The play [is] an epic journey into what we consider ‘foreign,’ and it challenges people’s perceptions of it,” says co-director Nyla Carpentier. “It’s a ridiculous time in the world. Makes sense to put on a play that reflects the issues as well as bring people together.”

Bringing Vancouver together

Members of the Ridiculous Darkness cast. | Photo by Wendy Dee

Representatives throughout the Vancouver community get to participate and even perform alongside the cast. Community participants include Theatre Terrific, Tetsu Taiko, Richmond Youth Honour Realwheels Theatre, and the East Van Powwow Crew, among others. Thirty percent of revenues will be go to these participating organizations.

The idea of collaborating with the community came from the New York Public Theatre’s Public Works program, which produces one play annually created by and for New York residents to celebrate the diversity of the city.

“Marisa (Emma Smith, co-director) and I witnessed a production that was co-created and performed by a wide variety of professional actors, community members, and performance groups. It was such a powerful and transformative experience that we wanted to make a similar creation with and for our own city. An exploration of how to connect across boundaries of difference,” says actor Daniel Arnold, who, with members of the Vancouver community, adapted the play.

Colour blind stories

Actor Munish Sharma described The Ridiculous Darkness as “Inclusive and interactive theatre.”

“It’s very progressive in what it’s doing. Through the forty cast members it does its best to be colour blind in casting and not perform the same archetypes in theatre. It does its best to honour the idea of making more inclusive theatre, it’s a ‘world play.’ Using the narrative it shows how people’s stories are all similar and that we can all learn from each other,” says Sharma.

The production also aims to be a different kind of interactive experience for the audience.

“We try to create a world unlike any we’ve experienced. The production makes the audience involved by placing them in the physical playground that is our stage,” says Carpentier.

But audiences are not going to be asked to come on the stage and perform.

“The show builds the audience into the world, so they get to experience the show like you’re in the world,” says Sharma.

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