Most people are familiar with Game of Thrones, HBO’s wildly successful medieval fantasy series with a dark storyline and a cast of hundreds — kings and queens, heroes and villains, dragons, bears, wolves, and horses. Lots of horses.
Now it has a theatrical parody of its epic style, Graeme of Thrones, coming Sunday to the Valentine Theatre, with a cast that includes Michael Condron, who appeared in two seasons of Game of Thrones as Bowen Marsh.
Alex Jarrett, original producer of Graeme of Thrones, came up with the initial concept for the parody a few years ago while living in the United Kingdom.
“Having watched Game of Thrones, it seemed ripe for a parody because no one else had done it. So we put together a team of writers and put them to work, and a few days later they came up with a script. We put it into London, where it all started really,” said Jarrett, who had produced other shows and ran a number of comedy clubs.
Game of Thrones is in its own world and takes itself so seriously, he added, so “it’s fun to play with it a bit. Also, you’ve just got a crazy world where there’s dragons, where there’s magic, with all these things [that have] lots of potential for comedy.”
The TV series is popular because of its epic story, the time and the landscape it stretches over, and the way people relate to it.
“They get tied into it. We have people who come to our show with all of the books (the series is an adaptation of American author George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire). “They bring seven books along with them, and it’s not because they’re going to read them, they have such a love for it,” Jarrett said. “They get so personally involved they can’t wait for the next episode.”
The premise of Graeme of Thrones centers on Graeme, who is a huge fan of Game of Thrones but believes it should have been a live theater production. He sets out to create that show by making a pitch to investors, enlisting two people, Bryony and Paul, to appear in it. But Graeme isn’t planning a small drama — he envisions a stadium experience that is 19 hours long, in the round, with a huge cast and such things as mechanical fire-breathing dragons.
The cast features Ali Brice as Graeme, Libby Northedge as Bryony, and Michael Condron as Paul. Brice, a member of the original Graeme of Thrones cast in London’s West End and on tour in the United Kingdom and Australia, earned critical acclaim for Eric Meat Wants to Go Shopping at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Northedge has been a performer and director with companies that include Britain’s Punchdrunk theater group, and has performed improv with IO and Second City in Chicago.
Condron has appeared in theater, television, and films, and performs regularly at Belfast Lyric Theatre; his credits include 39 Steps, Here Comes the Night, Macbeth, and Much Ado About Nothing He has performed Off-Broadway and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
He portrayed Bowen Marsh in seasons Five and Six of Game of Thrones, until Marsh was one of four characters hanged for killing Jon Snow.
“It wasn’t a huge part by any means, but there are [big] characters that get killed off in the series every year, so just to have those 10 episodes over two seasons was huge for me, something I’m very proud of,” Condron said in a phone interview. “They looked after me and treated me really nicely, so I have nothing but fond memories of it. You do not get a parody if the original wasn’t hugely successful.”
Paul, his character in Graeme of Thrones, is Graeme’s best friend. He’s a technician who has been roped into doing the show when Graeme’s other friend didn’t like the script and backed out.
“Graeme trusts me to come in and pick up the pieces, but [Paul] doesn’t have any acting ability. Paul is trying his best for his friend but he falls to pieces,” Condron said.
The three actors each play about 30 characters in the show, Jarrett said, “with different accents, wigs, costume changes. They’re taking on multiple roles to try to fill the shoes of their perceived cast of 200 [in the TV show].
“So the show you’ll see is three people with lots of costumes, homemade props, and maybe some dragons, but you’ll have to wait and see.”
There’s a lot for die-hard fans of the TV series, but the parody has something for everyone, Jarrett said. Graeme of Thrones has a play-within-a-play concept, physical comedy and improv, and “it’s just as much about the personalities you get in amateur theater; it’s got a bit of Shark Tank in it with Graeme pitching this crazy business idea. There are more layers to it than jokes about Game of Thrones.”
Within Graeme’s show there’s also a storyline that is not about Game of Thrones but about three people taking on the task of staging this massive project with no budget, no props, and no acting ability.
The parody’s writing team included an avid fan of the TV show, a writer who had read all of the books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series but had never seen the TV show, and a writer who had never read the books or seen the show, so he came to it fresh, Jarrett said, so that it would work for any audience.
Graeme of Thrones will be performed at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Valentine Theatre, 400 N. Superior St. Tickets, $38-$58, are from 419-242-2787, valentinetheatre.com, and at the box office from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, and Sunday at 6 p.m.
Contact Sue Brickey at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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