August 19, 2017


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Taking it to the next level

Actors interact with animation to emulate the glory days of classic joystick video games

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/7/2012 (1852 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If the contemporary high-definition video game is like a big-budget Hollywood movie, the more primitive video games of the early to mid-'80s should lend themselves to being produced on a modest fringe festival stage.

That, at least, is the working assumption of Winnipeg fringe newbie Cody Creed and his partner Daryl Nichol as they mount their live-action production of Jumpman Bros. Enter 8-bit Underland.

Cody Creed, left, and Daryl Nichol combine live theatre with retro video games in Jumpman Bros. Enter 8-bit Underland.


Cody Creed, left, and Daryl Nichol combine live theatre with retro video games in Jumpman Bros. Enter 8-bit Underland.

It may take place on a stage, but the production is as much a work of animation as it is theatre.

It is the familiar-looking story of two heavily moustached heroes attempting to rescue a princess from all sorts of dire, low-resolution menaces. With the use of a green screen, the play plunks the actors into retro video-game environments created by Creed, a self-taught animator who also wrote the script.

"Daryl and I play two characters who have been pulled into this world to rescue a princess," Creed says.

"I created all of the visuals. It takes the audience through a Mario-like setting, then a Zelda-like setting and Metroid setting and then there's even a game of Tetris at the end."

Nichol, a trained pianist, provides ongoing musical accompaniment on his accordion throughout the play, recalling those earworm soundtracks of video games gone by.

"Every chance I get, I just poke fun at the concepts and the strange things that are in those games," Creed says.

And as Super Mario may have endured uncounted levels of tribulation to save Princess Toadstool, this too is a labour of love for Creed, 34, as he affectionately recalls the 8-bit processor games played on Nintendo Entertainment Systems and Sega SG-1000s.

"When I was a kid, we had an Atari that we bought at a garage sale and then my uncle bought a Nintendo Entertainment System and I thought that was the best," he recalls.

"What I try to celebrate in this play is the classic video games. The 8-bit games I played when I was a kid, for me, that was a golden age for video games. There was so much that was beautiful in them and so much that was unusual. There were a lot of 8-bit games that came out of left field.

"That's what I like and that's what I want to celebrate."

There is no actor onstage playing the princess, but Creed still got to cast someone close to his heart: His seven-year-old daughter Evelyn.

"The princess is actually a video recording that I made," he says. "I used a setting on my camera that turns a video into 8-bit and so she's very boxy, but anyone who knows my little girl will know that it's her dancing around on the screen.

"And what better princess to save than my own?"


Jumpman Bros. Enter 8-bit Underland plays at MTC Up the Alley (Venue 2) until Saturday.

Read more by Randall King.


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