“To sleep, perchance to nightmare.”
No, it’s not a typo. It is a twist on one of the lines from Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquies in Hamlet. It is perhaps the perfect example of what’s in store for audiences with Dan Bray’s new play Zomblet.
Opening just in time for the Halloween season at Halifax’s Bus Stop Theatre, Zomblet is Bray’s dark but funny reimagining of the Shakespearean tragedy. “Think of Hamlet but with zombies instead of a ghost,” says Bray.
Presented by The Villains Theatre and Terra Novella Theatre, it is territory Bray and his team at Villains have not visited in the past. Known for producing early-modern tragedies by Shakespeare’s contemporaries, this is the company’s first foray into the Bard’s turf. It is not, however, Bray’s first crack at adapting his work.
“I have worked with Shakespeare by the Sea, helping them adapt Shakespeare for their company,” he says. “But this is my first time adapting Shakespeare for myself, and it’s definitely the most liberal adaptation that I’ve done.”
With his background in Shakespeare and early-modern tragedies, coupled with a love of horror films and the Halloween season, Bray saw Zomblet as the perfect combination for a little fun.
“For the Hamlet diehards, I think there are many little Easter eggs and treats for them and that in itself will be entertaining,” he says. “For anyone who has never seen Shakespeare or been to a play before, I hope it will be a fun celebration of what October is all about for me.”
But while he says he respects the original Hamlet, Bray also makes it clear Zomblet couldn’t be further from serious. “It’s ridiculous, it’s very cheeky, and it’s irreverent,” he says.
Part of the fun comes from Bray’s inclusion of a kitchen sink of theatrical genres that will include magic, music, and puppetry alongside Shakespeare. It is Bray’s way to not limit himself in his writing.
“Modern plays already have fights, music, and plays-within-plays. So it is kind of taking all these existing conventions and updating them, and turning them on their heads,” says Bray. “There’s really no way, even if you know Hamlet, that you will know what’s going to happen in this play.”
Not that Zomblet completely ignores its source material, as Bray includes many of the play’s main characters, and it opens in the same manner. But instead of Hamlet encountering his father’s ghost, he meets a gravedigger who has seen his father’s zombie. From there, Bray says, “things take a right turn.”
“We do touch on moments from the play, but not in any faithful order,” he continues. “There’s a lot of deaths, but otherwise, it does not really follow the traditional plot at all.”
Calling it a “theatrical party,” Bray hopes audiences will come just to be entertained.
“It’s as simple as that. It’s a fun, spooky way to spend the night with so many things happening, so many elements, from a great group of actors.”
Zomblet opens at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen St, Halifax) on October 23 and runs until October 27. Tickets are available online at Ticket Halifax.