Calling on Keats

Intrepid Theatre is under the Influence

Elliot Loran as John Keats (centre) with David Radford as Apollo and Karen Lee Pickett as Athena in Influence

Intrepid Theatre is under the Influence

Despite having spent years developing and running the downtown black-box theatre space that is the Metro Studio, Intrepid Theatre’s Janet Munsil and Ian Case have yet to produce a show there — until now.That debut production comes in the form of Influence, Munsil’s play about the young British poet John Keats and his transformative visit to see the British Museum’s Elgin Marbles in 1817 — and how the Greek gods meddled in his fate. Commissioned by Vancouver’s Touchstone Theatre, who produced the play in 2008, the Victoria production will feature an all-Victoria cast — including Case as Greek god Hephestus, Karen Lee Pickett as Athena, David Radford as Apollo, Elliott Loran as Keats and Paul Terry as his mentor, Benjamin Haydon — and marks the first time Intrepid has used the Metro space for its own play, although a staged reading of Influence was performed there in November 2008.“Part of the reason for doing this is just to challenge ourselves artistically and take advantage of all the resources that we’ve developed for the community that we’ve neglected to take advantage of ourselves,” says Munsil. “It is funny that we’ve developed these spaces, but we haven’t taken advantage of them, even individually. It feels like a good time to do this.”Ironically, the decision to consider producing a show in-house came from last year’s brutal provincial arts cuts, which forced Intrepid to cancel part of their series — leaving them with some time for reflection. Intrepid is normally a presenting company — they put on the Victoria Fringe and Uno festivals and their presenting series consists of a mix of international and local plays produced by outside companies — but Munsil sees Influence as a possible signal of change.“The best thing, I think, that could come out of this is not that we start producing a season of plays, but that one locally-based production produced by Intrepid is part of our presenting season,” she says.Like Intrepid itself, Influence’s Keats is at a reflective point in his career. He’d just had his first book published and quit his job as a surgeon when he made the fateful visit to the British Museum in 1817. Four years later, he would die from tuberculosis — but go on to become one of England’s most celebrated poets.“He thought being a poet was the highest calling of mankind — and he was going to go after that,” says Munsil. “But there was that moment of doubt; that was the prize, but what about everything else?”Influence opens at 8 p.m. March 4 and has eight performances at the Metro Studio (1411 Quadra) before closing March 13. Tickets are $25 (with March 4 being pay-what-you-can). Get showtimes and tickets at intrepidtheatre.com or 250-590-6291.

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