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Princess Rules brings a blend of anime and drag to Halifax

Halifax theatre company debuts the sequel to its 2016 Fringe Fest hit

4 min read
caption Aaron Collier performs as Princess Edward.

The Halifax independent theatre scene is on full display in a genre and gender blending piece of performance theatre called Princess Rules.

Princess Rules is the stand-alone sequel to The Princess Show, which made its Halifax debut during the 2016 Fringe Festival.

Richie Wilcox and Aaron Collier wrote and produced Princess Rules. Together they run HEIST productions, an independent theatre company based in Halifax.

“We’re trying to break down the prejudice of ‘oh, going to the theatre is about sitting still and being quiet;’ that’s not us,” says Wilcox.

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In Princess Rules, the characters do not use their actual voices once. Lip-syncing is a staple of  drag performances, but lip-syncing all of the dialogue for this two-act show was inspired by a drag show that Collier and Wilcox saw during a trip to Ireland.

“These two Queens did scenes from famous Irish soap operas, and we watched them lip-sync these scenes on stage together,” says Wilcox. “That stuck with Aaron especially.”

Collier plays Princess Edward, the ambassador of hope to the remnants of humanity in a Japanese anime inspired dystopia. The lip-syncing lends itself to the genre of anime, which is often dubbed over for English speaking audiences.

The pool of talent that collaborated on Princess Rules includes artists from all over Canada and even from across the world. As Wilcox explains, this type of collaboration does not come easily.

“It’s been exciting, but you know, like a long-distance relationship, it can be hard,” says Wilcox.

Princess Rules uses projection techniques to create backdrops that change with the action on the stage. The timing and precision of this technique combined with the set-design creates a holographic illusion.

caption Richie Wilcox performs as Abel T. Suckizone.

This show was also an opportunity for Wilcox and Collier to team up with Quebec-based director and friend, Jean-Pierre Cloutier. Cloutier is an acclaimed actor and director whose recent work in French-language theatre earned him Best Production of the Year at the Prix de l’Association des critiques de théâtres du Québec.

“Jean-Pierre works in Quebec theatre, which is a very different artistic culture,” says Wilcox. “We keep saying that The Princess Show was a Nintendo and Princess Rules is a Super NES. We’ve leveled up, and that’s because of Jean-Pierre.”

caption Jean-Pierre Cloutier doing a technical check before the show.

Wilcox and Collier also share the stage with Lara Lewis, a Mi’kmaq theatre activist and the artistic director of Taboo Theatre, another independent theatre company in Halifax. The three of them met last year. At the time, Lewis was working at the Bus Stop Theatre, and was directing a play with the Dalhousie Theatre Society called “Phaedra’s Love.”

“HEIST is the most unapologetically queer theatre in this city. They are really good with including and incorporating people of colour into their productions,” says Lewis.

Jake Planinc was waiting to see Monday’s preview of Princess Rules. In October he directed “Bone Cage,” which played at the Bus Stop Theatre.

“I heard so much about their first show, and they came to see us at the Bus Stop. So I had to come out and see this,” says Planinc.

Princess Rules runs every night, until Sunday, at 8:00 p.m. at the Waiting Room Theatre on Almon Street.

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