The Malta Independent 23 July 2019, Tuesday

Game of Thrones re-told in 60 minutes

Albert Galea Tuesday, 28 May 2019, 13:18 Last update: about 3 months ago

After a tale spanning eight seasons, the television series Game of Thrones ended just over a week ago. The series, based on A Song of Ice and Fire by author George R.R. Martin, proved to be wildly popular with high ratings and a wide, sometimes fanatical, fan base.

It is not the end of it however, at least not for Maltese fans! Starting next week, one of Malta’s funniest contingents – the Comedy Knights – are giving the popular series a full on makeover, condensing it into a parody: ‘GoT in 60 minutes: The Unauthorised Parody’.

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The decision by the Comedy Knights to branch out from its usual style of sketch-based comedy – they are best known for their Christmas shows – had long been coming, says Comedy Knights founder Wesley Ellul.

“We have wanted to branch out for a number of years,” Ellul says, noting that just after their second year, they decided to try something new during a different part of the theatrical season.

“It was a bit of a rush job though – it did well and sold well, but we didn’t find the right venue for it and it was another sketch show, which resulted in people getting confused over whether it was the same thing as usual or not.”

“Over the past few years, we have wanted the Comedy Knights brand to branch out because we feel that, from a comedic standpoint, we can offer a lot – we feel we do a good job with the comedic satire that we do, but we also have other things we feel we can expand on,” he says.

However, ‘Got in 60 Minutes’ nearly did not happen; the Comedy Knights had an altogether different idea in mind. That project, Ellul says, fell through for logistical reasons related to the chosen venue. It was at that point that the group started questioning whether they still wanted to do something new.

“At that point, Chris Dingli said that he had been working on the concept of taking Game of Thrones and condensing it into a one-hour show – and there I thought, okay that’s fun and sounds interesting,” Ellul explains.

The decision to put on the show was taken on 8 April and the script was finalised last week, right after the show’s finale, he explains.

Another part of wanting to branch out, Ellul says, is working with new people.

“A lot of people think the Comedy Knights are a sort of closed entity that nobody can join but that’s not the case – our Christmas show is a bit of a closed bunch and we will only call for somebody if we need a replacement for whatever reason, but projects like this are open to new people.”

In fact, the Comedy Knights are also organising another shows called ‘Comedy Knights Juniors’ which is going to be written and directed by comedy and theatre stalwart Malcolm Galea, but which will be overseen by the group.

“We are trying to attract new actors using this brand, which I think resonates with a lot of people, while also keeping those core values of always entertaining, always being good value, and always being funny,” Ellul says.

In fact, ‘GoT in 60 minutes’ will see the participation of Comedy Knights stalwart Chris Dingli and will be directed by Ellul himself; but newcomers Steffie Weenink and Giulia Gatt will be joining Dingli as part of the main cast.

The show itself will take the form of one, long-running narrative condensed into an hour. 

“Obviously the play cannot be completely reliant on Game of Thrones, so the narrative is largely driven by the three characters presenting the show and giving the audience a run-through of the series,” Ellul explains.

Weenink will be playing the character of what Ellul describes as the “ultra-GoT nerd who knows the series inside out and loves everything to do with it.” while Gatt plays the “GoT fan-girl who likes it because she’s hip, but delve into the lore.” Dingli, meanwhile, plays the person who knows absolutely nothing about GoT but who was cast simply because of his acting experience.

“They are on a journey where they will tell this story to everyone,” Ellul says. Game of Thrones does run for eight seasons – so one of the big questions is how Dingli’s script has managed squeeze all of that into one short hour.

Ellul explains that while there are many subplots throughout the series, many remain unresolved. Consequently, the script will look at the series’ main narrative – it goes through all the characters and there are scenes where the most important protagonists appear.

“We basically focus on the show’s highlights. It is similar to watching a bunch of recaps on YouTube, but in our case we are re-imagining these events,” he says.

Ellul refers to scene involving a character called Theon Greyjoy who, in the show, has “something terrible” happen to him and the production looks at it from the angle of a game show instead, which is eventually how his fate is decided. “We re-envisage the scenes and re-purpose them,” he continues.

“There is an element of sketch involved but it is much shorter – but it is a parody and that’s key for us – we’re also commenting on Game of Thrones and talking about what’s good about it, what’s bad about it and just simply enjoying it.”

Perhaps the biggest question of all, however, is whether this is a show solely for those who have watched Games of Thrones. The answer, non-GoT watchers, is that you can indeed watch this show without every joke flying over your head.

In fact, Ellul explains that not even he – as the show’s director – has watched Game of Thrones (save for the first episode at least four times). 

“Chris wrote a fantastic script and I saw it from a complete outsider’s perspective. We want people who have never seen Game of Thrones but simply know of it to have a good.

In fact, one of the marketing slogans that the Comedy Knights have used to try and attract more people to the show questions whether people are fed up of hearing about Game of Thrones and being left out of the conversation as a result of not watching it.

“There is an element of education, but it is entertainment, so you will learn about it and the characters and laugh about it at the same time. If you have never seen Game of Thrones, just think of it as a one-hour comedy show about something that everybody is talking about but which you will understand.”

This is not to say that the show will not have anything for the Game of Thrones fanatics.  Ellul explains that the script includes several inside jokes – throwaway lines that only those who have actually watched the show will get. This said, even those who are yet to watch it will catch on eventually, Ellul assures.

This idea, Ellul explains, is something of a pilot project. If they get the response they are hoping for, the Comedy Knights will look to take the show on tour in the UK, and maybe even to the United States in the future.

“That is the joy of being an unauthorised parody – we get a lot of freedom in what we do.”

If the model does work, we could well see the Comedy Knights branching out into re-telling other pop culture series or classical stories.  While the works of William Shakespeare are not on the group’s radar – something like Star Wars most certainly is. However, what is important is that whatever they do is appealing to fans of the show and their current audience and just makes everyone happy, Ellul says.

Overall, Ellul explains, Game of Thrones is one of those shows that splits people. “How it’s written splits people – there’s controversy and passion about it – and the show itself is about division. We are trying to create collusion instead and find all the things that people can agree with, whether they’ve seen it or not, hate it or love it, and take the best moments out of that to give everyone a great night out,” he heartily concludes.

 

Opening night is on 31 May, and tickets for the show’s initial run up to 9 June are selling faster than Game of Throne’s body count is rising. In fact, the group has decided to add a number of extra shows, which will run to 15 June. The production will take place at the MADC Clubrooms in Santa Venera and booking is possible through www.ticketline.com.mt.

 

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