The play’s the thing

Incorporating teenage angst and rap into Shakespeare’s Hamlet might leave the audience at the Baby Grand Theatre confused

David Rockne Corrigan (right), a Kingston native, plays the lead in The King’s Conscience.
David Rockne Corrigan (right), a Kingston native, plays the lead in The King’s Conscience.

Walking into the dimly lit room that looks more like a bluesy bar or an underground coffee shop than a stage, I expected more out of The King’s Conscience than what I initially saw.

The King’s Conscience, written by Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman and David Rockne Corrigan and directed by Layne Coleman, opened Wednesday at the Baby Grand Theatre and runs until Feb. 20.

The play tells a story of a young man’s life through his thoughts and experiences after the death of his father.

The setting was intimate and created a personal connection with the audience before the actors even began to speak. This connection, however, diminished with the breaking of the fourth wall as Anna Sudac who plays music throughout the play, addressed the audience directly, more as herself than as the character she was portraying.

The costumes indicated the characters were in boarding school, which added to the feeling that the play was about nothing more than teenage angst.

It’s obvious that The King’s Conscience is written by two different writers, which isn’t something you want to notice while watching a play. There wasn’t a cohesive theme and the story line tended to jump back and forth between seemingly unrelated topics.

I was, however, impressed with Corrigan’s acting skills. He was definitely entertaining to watch and engaged the audience. Sudac’s skills as a singer/songwriter far outweigh her acting abilities. Her songs were attention grabbing and fun, but I would much rather have gone to see her in a concert than a play.

The music included both rap and folk. Each actor performed multiple solos and a few songs were sung as duets. The songs created a point of interest in the play. Had there been a soundtrack of the songs performed in this play, I would have bought it.

Many of the rap songs, written by Rockne, took the soliloquies from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and remixed them into something that was new and interesting. It was a fun and modern way to present Hamlet.

The writing itself was somewhat lacking and hard to follow. Throughout most of the play, I found myself confused as to what was going on. One moment, Corrigan would be going on about his angsty teenage life and the next he’d be talking about apes or zebras while he juggled skulls.

The play drew laughs and smiles, but was really brought down by the constant depression created by talk of suicide, death and an unstable relationship.

Halfway through, as is tradition with theatre, was the intermission. In an hour-long play, however, this break served only to disrupt the flow of the story. Eliminating the intermission would have brought the two halves of the play together and made it easier to follow.

The play itself was a bit anticlimactic. Multiple references were made throughout that suggested that something major was going to happen. But, nothing did.

Hamlet seemed to be the focal point through which the multiple themes and storylines were connected. Corrigan’s character, in the end, was portrayed as a pseudo-Hamlet and his girlfriend, Molly, as Ophelia. The King’s Conscience is basically Hamlet reincarnated as a modern, angsty and rapping teenager.

At the end of this play, I was questioning what it was actually about. Was it tragedy? Was it romance? I can’t give an answer to that. There were too many stories combined into one play to pinpoint one main, overall theme.

Although the songs, actors and setting were all very interesting and engaging and set the mood for an excellent play, the writing was disappointing and confusing. The tools were all there to create something amazing; all that was needed was a more refined script to bring these elements together.

The King’s Conscience runs at The Baby Grand Theatre until Feb. 20. For more information on tickets and show times visit theatrekingston.com

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