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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

My Zombie Brother

Ezekiel McAdams
Published Thursday January 7, 06:16 pm
A wordless play about monster siblings gets a new sound

Aiden Flynn Lost His Brother So He Made Another
The Refinery
Jan. 8-17

Aiden Flynn Lost His Brother So He Made Anotheris back, this time at the Refinery as part of Live Five’s 2015-2016 season. While the made-in-Saskatoon touring play has gone through as many versions as it has festivals, this will be the first time it’s had this much space and flexibility. Not to mention a real set.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Originally developed in 2014, Aiden Flynn Lost His Brother So He Made Another was conceived by playwrights and actors Nathan Howe and Morgan Murray. Its genesis was pretty straightforward, says Howe. “I wanted to play a monster. We wanted to write a play about our brothers.”

That idea became a performance/moment piece without dialogue. An early workshop brought in Danielle Spilchen as Aiden’s monstrous brother, and Howe now directs.

The play is about eight-year-old Aiden Flynn who loses his brother. That tragedy sparks an idea — like Dr. Frankenstein, he will bring his brother back to life.

The play doesn’t have scripted dialogue. That wasn’t Howe and Murray’s original intention, but as they looked for ways to convey their creature’s motives and mood, it seemed like a natural idea.

“A lot of that didn’t come out until we developed the story,” says Howe. “Morgan and I are very physical performers and the original plan was we were both going to be the actors in it, so we started working more with a physical vocabulary and how this creature communicates. How does it learn to communicate? What teaches it?

“Aiden doesn’t say anything for the first chunk of the play because we didn’t want him to talk to the audience,” Howe says. “It became a fully physical piece out of that story, which was interesting. We had written most of it without words already — why not leave it that way?”

From Fringe To Fringe

Aidan Flynn’sinitial run took it from Saskatoon’s Fringe circuit all the way to Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Reviews were good and the cast and crew enjoyed each other’s company, so they stayed with it.

Howe and Murray kept making tweaks as the show continued with stops at the Wildside Festival  in Montreal, Swift Current’s Chautauqua Festival, the Edmonton Fringe Festival and Regina’s International Puppet Underground Film Festival.

“Fringe has some limitations as far as what you can do with your space and how many people you can take on tour and your time limit,” says Howe. “With this production, we can take these limitations off.

Aiden Flynnpicked up a notable prize on its travels — winning Best English Theatre Production at the 2014 Montreal Fringe, as well as a nomination for the festival’s Mainline Creativity award.

A wordless play about zombie brothers isn’t enough for you? Okay. Aiden Flynn Lost His Brother So He Made Another has audience participation. At times, the characters interact with the crowd which makes things interesting for kids (this is an all-ages play about scary reanimated siblings). Aiden occasionally asks for help with threading needles or blowing up balloons.

There’s some room to wing it, too.

“Sometimes the kids will want to say things or do things and Aiden and his brother will want to go there with them.” says Howe.

Music For Monsters

Howe says the new iteration is the best version of the play, thanks to how they’ve incorporated live music by Robert Grier, Jared Beattie and Derek Deroches. Music has always been an essential part of the Aiden Flynn experience. The original soundtrack was recorded by Howe and Deroches, guerilla style.

“Derek and I recorded in a room in his house where we put a mattress up in front of the door so the sound of people cooking in the kitchen wouldn’t make it into the recording,” says Howe. “And we did it as quickly as rehearsal was going.

“We were writing the music as the play was being created,” he says.

Howe wanted the music to be a language itself. The instruments range from violins to spoons.

He says one reviewer called it “a musical without words.”

“It changes song per song,” says Howe. “Sometimes the music invokes place, sometimes the music takes place in Aiden’s imagination, sometimes the music is used to shock and scare who’s on stage.

“Every song effect is made by these guys,” adds Howe. “One of our instruments is a bucket of water with a pot lid. The three musicians are also other characters who the play interacts with.”

“Literally, we are other characters,” interjects Grier, who’s also at this interview. “They gave us costumes and we’re sitting right there. We have character names too.”

While Howe says they might keep fiddling, he’s happy where the play is at and now wants to share it with his hometown audience.

“It’s about love,” says Howe. “I wrote it about my brother, and it’s about family and acceptance. And I want people to think about that when they leave.”

Aiden Flynn Lost His Brother So He Made Anotherplays at the Refinery from January 8-17, with a preview on Jan. 7. Tickets are online at Livefive.ca and at the door. 

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