Hamming up Hamlet: N.B.'s Live Bait Theatre tours Shakespearean spoof

The spoof has three people playing more than 20 characters. Pictured is Michelle Daigle as Hamlet, Ron Kelly Spurles as the three witches and Don Rigley as Friar Lawrence. (Submitted by Ron Kelly Spurles - image credit)
The spoof has three people playing more than 20 characters. Pictured is Michelle Daigle as Hamlet, Ron Kelly Spurles as the three witches and Don Rigley as Friar Lawrence. (Submitted by Ron Kelly Spurles - image credit)

Depending on how you look at it, Live Bait Theatre Company's latest production has either been 30 years — or 400  — in the making.

"I think we finally got the right formula," said Michelle Daigle, who is one-third of the cast and wrote much of the script for The Good, The Bard and the Ugly.

The one-hour Shakespeare spoof is being staged Saturday at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre in Fredericton and has dates in Miramichi, Saint John and Sussex as well.

The name may borrow from a spaghetti Western film, but the premise, according to artistic director, castmate and writing contributor Ron Kelly Spurles, is that William Shakespeare has been ordered by Queen Elizabeth I to write a play in just one week, so he decides to draw from a number of unproduced works that accidentally get jumbled together.

Submitted by Ron Kelly Spurles
Submitted by Ron Kelly Spurles

"It all becomes a bit of a smorgasbord of different characters," said Kelly Spurles.

"Sometimes the wrong person says the line, and sometimes the lines are changed in different ways."

If his experience working on the show is any indication, audiences are in for a fun time.

"I've never laughed as hard," he said.

Rounding out the cast and also "chiming in" on the writing is Don Rigley, who is Daigle's partner in life and in the musical duo Frantically Atlantic.

They've contributed music to move the story along, said Kelly Spurles, but Rigley has also "turned out to be a really great comedic actor."

There are almost 20 characters in the play.

Submitted by Ron Kelly Spurles
Submitted by Ron Kelly Spurles

To name a few, they include Romeo's ex-girlfriend Roseline, the three witches — all played by one person — Spot, Romeo's invisible dog, and Friar Lawrence, "who is always full of vim and vino," said Daigle.

"We're changing costumes like crazy backstage and trying to remember our lines and to remember which scenes are coming next," she said. "It's quite a workout."

A highlight for Daigle is a scene in which she plays Hamlet and Rigley plays Ophelia.

Kelly Spurles enjoys playing a "funny" and "crazy" nurse from Romeo and Juliet.

"Men dressed up as women," said Daigle. "You can't go wrong."

The most "thrilling" scenes for Rigley involve fights with swords and lightsabers.

"It's scary and confusing at times," he said, but "always a hoot."

Daigle and Kelly Spurles have collaborated on dramatic productions since they were in high school together in Fredericton.

Submitted by Ron Kelly Spurles
Submitted by Ron Kelly Spurles

Frantically Atlantic has recently expanded from music into drama with plays about local history, such as the last fatal duel in the province, the Paris Crew, the last officer's wife to stay in the Barracks, and the Coleman Frog.

This latest production was spawned from a short spoof of Romeo and Juliet co-written by Daigle and performed by Kelly Spurles and Andrea Boyd at King's Landing in the mid-1990s.

A few years ago, they started expanding it into something that could be performed by a few people and took it on tour.

They had "a great time" playing with Shakespeare's "beautiful language," said Kelly Spurles.

Shakespeare fans will find plenty of "Easter eggs," he said.

But even people who don't think they're very familiar with Shakespeare will probably recognize some of the characters and lines, he said, "because they're just very, very famous."

The response to the first few performances has been terrific, said Kelly Spurles.

Plans to tour

After this weekend's show, the next scheduled tour stop is in a couple of weeks at Miramichi's Carrefour Beausoleil.

They're also planning shows in Saint John and Sussex in March, said Kelly Spurles, but details are still being worked out.

Tickets for Saturday's show are $20 and are available at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre or online at Livebaitheatre.com

The show starts at 7 with music by Frantically Atlantic. The play starts at 7:30.