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Monday January 8, 2018 in Books
Among the first by a writer with Down syndrome, these two plays demonstrate an ability to riff and shift perspective, with disarming, hilarious, and occasionally heart-stopping results. Based on the iconic stories of King Arthur and Peter Pan, they are modern-day mash-ups that meld the fictional, the meta-fictional, and the real in ways that are counter-intuitive and absurd. And they’re musical! Both feature songs by beloved Vancouver musician Veda Hille, with lyrics by the playwrights.
King Arthur’s Night is a musical extravaganza in which King Arthur banters with Merlin and romances Guinevere. An upside-down world … a betrayed love … an unwanted child … a revolt by the subjugated masses … a kingdom come undone … It leaves one pondering mysteries both absurd (how did the Round Table get to Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia?) and profound (what is the link between the soul and
Peter Panties is a radical re-imagining of the Peter Pan story in which Peter Pan and Captain Hook (or is he Macbeth?) drink lattes, the Lost Boys hang with detectives from CSI, and Tinkerbell and Wendy duke it out at Skull Rock. Peter is conflicted about growing up – “Fuck that! No mustache!” – but he also desperately wants to have sex with Wendy and make a baby. The situation is funny, but aching; sexual exclusion and the denial of full adulthood are no laughing matters for people whose lives include Down syndrome.
McNeil’s singular voice and imaginative inner landscape are at the centre of these works, and in them entirely new worlds and languages are invented. Through dialogue and play, through the power of association, he subverts expectations. In these plays McNeil and Youssef challenge the classifications that “neurotypicals” presume must be the only legitimate means of perceiving and naming the world.
ISBN 13: 9781772012033 | ISBN 10:
6 W x 9 H inches | 160 pages
$18.95 CAN / $18.95 US
Frontlist | Drama
QUOTES OF NOTE
Praise for King Arthur’s Night:
“Enchanting images, sounds, and words wash over you in King Arthur’s Night … Take a deep breath and enter another world. It’s Camelot like you’ve never seen it before. And it’s for everyone. … A bracingly fresh, radically inclusive take on the Arthurian legends. [The script] is original, poetic, and full of surprises. … Elements of the story thread in and out in a nonlinear, dreamlike fashion … The play is a poetic collage of powerful theatrical moments; its dialogue is terse, contemporary, and full of surprising images. … King Arthur’s Night is a rare opportunity to see what inclusion really looks like – and to let its beautiful sounds and images wash over you. Don’t miss it.”—Kathleen Oliver, Georgia Straight
It’s “Camelot, chromosomally enriched … [Four of the] actors have Down syndrome, a congenital condition in which an extra chromosome can constrain physical growth, mobility and speech production. None of which in any way impairs their intelligence, ad-libbing wit, [or] performative zest … Far from merely muddling through an impaired version of their roles, the Down syndrome cast brought a whole new kind of stage presence to the Arthurian legend. Their compact stature and economy of speech and motion lend them a certain density that compels a sharper focus on any scene where they appear. The supporting cast of theatre professionals … seem almost wispy and insubstantial in contrast. And all of them – chromosomally augmented and neurotypicals alike – are canny enough to play off these contrasts.”—Lincoln Kaye, Vancouver Observer
“An epically imagined work of theatre, a revolutionary act of inclusion, and a moving story of friendship … The project, created with composer-musician Veda Hille and directed by James Long, doesn’t patronize and it defies preconceptions. … Mythical, highly musical, and lavishly designed. It is also a rallying cry for change in theatre. But more than anything, it’s an extraordinary story of friendship.”—Georgia Straight
“Picture the legend of King Arthur ‘made fresh for our eyes,’ where lovers give birth to an upstart goat, a sixteen-piece choir accompanies phone-recorded melodies, and the cast features actors with Down syndrome.”—Metro Vancouver
“A lovingly made adventure … a refreshingly diverse reimagining of a well-known story … King Arthur’s Night weaves together elements recognizable and personal: it is based on Arthurian legend while incorporating elements of the life of McNeil, who also plays King Arthur. … The characters are lovingly drawn and well-rendered by their actors. … McNeil’s Arthur is commanding and compelling, both traits juxtaposed by his confident, impatient and humorous dialogue. … [The songs] are powerful and atmospheric … Ultimately a play about friendship and loyalty, King Arthur’s Night reflects the long-running partnership of its co-playwrights and invites the audience to share in that warmth …”—The Ubyssey
Praise for Peter Panties:
“Peter Panties’s frankness and freedom are liberatingly funny … McNeil and company loosen the corset of Barrie’s Victorian masterpiece and let its flesh hang out. … McNeil’s syntax is eccentric and his language forceful; the result is poetry. Nowhere is this more exciting than in [Veda] Hille’s songs. … The tremendous thing about [this play] is that it acknowledges the audience’s involvement in creating the theatrical reality. We’re included. And inclusion is what this show is all about.”—Georgia Straight
“If Veda Hille’s extraordinarily deviant musical reworking of Peter Pan was noticed by a savvy, Broadway-connected producer there would be little keeping Peter Panties from being a bigger smash than the Rocky Horror Picture Show. … Hille’s slithery melodies and punchy rock tracks are fleshed out in the most deliciously lurid fashion by artfully devious lyrics from Niall McNeil and Marcus Youssef …”—Toronto Star
About the ContributorsNiall McNeil
Niall McNeil has been involved with theatre from an early age. In 2011 Leaky Heaven and Neworld Theatre co-produced Peter Panties, a play written by McNeil and Marcus Youssef which was performed in the Vancouver Push Festival. Peter Panties won a Jesse Richardson Critics Choice Award for Innovation in theatre.Marcus Youssef
Many of Marcus’s plays were written or created with friends and colleagues. They include Winners and Losers, Leftovers, Jabber, How Has My Love Affected You?, Ali and Ali and the aXes of Evil, Adrift, Peter Panties, and A Line in the Sand. These have been performed across North America, Australia, and Europe, and recently off-Broadway.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF); and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.