There was more going on behind Henry Hudson’s back than just the mutinous plotting of his crew.
The Hudson Bay Epic is a historical retelling of Henry Hudson’s fourth and final attempt to discover the northwest passage, co-written by Genevieve Pare and Ian MacFarlane — who are also the main actors in the play — and re-imagined as a love story between two of the crew. The play runs as part of the upcoming Ignite Festival June 12–15. Pare and MacFarlane play the parts of seven different characters and produce all the sound effects themselves.
The ship that Pare and MacFarlane designed for the stage is built entirely out of found objects — which are used to produce all the various sounds required throughout the play. There are plastic pipes as didgeridoos to make the sound of wind or whales, there are goblets for chimes, a guitar string on the mast that can be plucked, struck or played with a bow, and much of the ship has wooden xylophone keys built right into the hull.
“All the sounds are acoustic,” MacFarlane says. “There’s no audio over the sound system. It’s all percussive, all acoustic. It’s kind of a challenge for us to incorporate the sound-making as part of the storytelling and as part of the theatrical action.”
The idea for the play began as an idea for cabaret. Pare and MacFarlane wanted to create a piece of folklore designed around a sound machine.
MacFarlane says the original inspiration for choosing Henry Hudson’s final voyage was reading something someone made up on the Internet: Henry Hudson meeting dwarves in the same area that is now New York City.
“It was ridiculous, but we started to think about Canadian history and the mystery around Henry Hudson’s expedition,” MacFarlane says. “There are so many details that we don’t have access to that we could really manipulate history and change it into a folktale of our own.”
They researched Henry Hudson and his voyage, inventing a folktale of their own about a romance between a woman disguised as a man and a historical figure called Thomas Woodhouse.
The play runs as part of a double bill with Places We Will Never Go.