Supernatural horror tale

2013-06-11 00:00

MARC Kay is feeling nervous ... tonight he steps on stage at Seabrooke’s Theatre at DHS in his first one-person show, The Erl King.

Kay, who has adapted Irish author John Connolly’s short story to the stage, first came across the tale while reading Connolly’s collection of short stories, Nocturnes, in 2006.

“I read it and I loved it,” the Durban-based actor, writer and director said.

“Then I met John Connolly at a book signing and I asked him if he would mind if I adapted the story for the stage. He told me to go ahead.”

Unfortunately, life then got in the way and Kay put The Erl King on the backburner while he concentrated on performing in productions ranging from adult pantomimes, such as The Wizard of Oz, to The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspre (Abridged) and ThinkTheatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Othello.

Then, last year, while wrestling with a new adaptation of Faust, he found himself looking through some old scripts.

“I came across the script idea I’d had for The Erl King and decided to contact John again. I asked him if he would still allow me to adapt it and he said yes,” Kay said, adding that he has secured the world’s best rights deal — he simply has to give a private performance of the play to Connolly and his family.

The Erl King is a horror story in which Kay tells the story of a boy called David who finds himself face-to-face with a creature as old as the woods themselves.

David’s mother is dying and his father is distracted by his work in the war. David is a lonely child — but that does not mean he is alone. Someone, or something, has noticed David, and it means to have him to sate its hunger.

Asked what had attracted him to the story, Kay said he loves reading about the supernatural.

“I enjoy very light or very dark stories. This one captures the darkness,” he added.

“I love Connolly’s writing and thought this was the most evocative piece. But it’s been a challenge adapting it for the stage because what works on the page doesn’t necessarily translate as well for a play.”

To help bring the narrative to life, the actor will be using puppets designed by Peter Court, and shadow puppetry created by director Bryan Hiles, Clare Mortimer and Kay himself.

Asked why he had asked Hiles to direct, he said that he had loved the puppetry used in Court and Hiles’s production of Rumplestiltskin.

“I felt the styles of their play and The Erl King are quite similar. They are both quite dark,” he added.

As for the set, Kay has decided to keep it quite simple and stark, with just a screen, a chair and a bench, and some ghostly trees on the Seabrooke’s stage.

Kay added that he is enjoying the chance to write new material. In addition to The Erl King, he has penned a play about two men who live in neighbouring apartment blocks and are separated by the smallest of spaces.

One of the men is a classical musician and the other is a “regular oke”, and the play explores the relationship that develops between them.

He also wrote Guide to the Theatre, the most recent Actors Unemployed Company (AUC) show, which is headed to The Witness Hilton Arts Festival in September, and the beautiful one-hander, Birdman, which is performed by Adam Dore, and will be staged at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown from June 27 to July 6.

Right now, however, his focus is on The Erl King, which is at Seabrooke’s Theatre in Durban from today to June 23.

Performances are at 7.30 pm and tickets are R75 each. To book, phone Ailsa at 083 250 2690.

• arts@witness.co.za

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