Hamilton

Which Fringe play trapped audiences inside a superhero's home? The Butler did it

The Butler: A Superhero Detective Story runs until the end of the Hamilton Fringe Festival.

The Butler: A Superhero Detective Story is an interactive mystery story for all ages

(Red Pants Productions)

William Erskine's name was the first to be drawn at the Hamilton Fringe Festival lottery. The first-time playwright says this "strange luck" has followed him through the course of developing his children's play for this year's festival.

His play is called The Butler: A Superhero Detective Story.

It was sold out before it opened last week, and Erskine says that it is continuing to draw an audience of all ages. He says, it's neat to see how people react to the show, depending on how old they are.

Erskine wanted to introduce children to theatre production and how a stage show is run, he says, and from what he's heard so far, "things are going according to plan."

"We even had a bunch of older kids ask to see our props after today's show, to figure out how they worked and what they were made from," Erskine wrote in an email on Monday.

With his play, Erskine presents an answer to the question: "What do people like Alfred [Batman's butler] have to deal with, that's just runoff from a superhero's life, on a daily basis?" 

The butler is a robot who Erskine says is supposed to be communicating and coordinating with, "the world's greatest superheroes" when they're off on a mission, and leading tours through the superhero's house. 

But an emergency happens, so the entire group is stuck in the basement of the house, and "all sorts of things start to go wrong," says Erskine.
William Erskine is a 29-year old playwright who lives in Hamilton. His first play, The Butler: A Superhero Detective Story, opened on Thursday at the Hamilton Fringe Festival. (Meagan Deuling)

The audience plays a role too, as the tour group. The play is interactive and partly improvised. 

This is the 16th year of the Hamilton Fringe Festival, and the first year that the festival has had a component for children and families. Erskine's play opened the festival, and was widely promoted, he said.

The day before the play opened, Erskine says everything had gone so smoothly that the reality of the sold out premiere hadn't hit him yet.

Twenty nine-year-old Erskine grew up in Oakville. Now he lives in Hamilton. He describes himself as "a real comic book fan," and he envisioned The Butler as, "a live-action cartoon on stage."

The cast started rehearsing in May, and Erskine says they embody his vision, and each of them brings their own interpretation to the story that was, until that point, in his head.

The cast includes Ramzey Zourob, Elizabeth Martin, Ben Straughan, Karlie Starchuk, Shanice Bowrin, and Olivia Prunean. It's produced by Adam Bryan, who is also a co-director with Erskine.

The Butler is 45 minutes long. There are six performances until the end of the festival. Go to the Hamilton Fringe Festival website to see the schedule, and check out more performances. 
The cast of The Butler practicing their script. (Submitted by William Erskine)

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