The X-Files makes you want to believe

Sarah McNeilly and Ryan Kerr star as FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dr. Dana Scully in The Theatre on King’s stage recreation of The X-Files (photo: Andy Carroll / TTOK)

Sarah McNeilly and Ryan Kerr star as FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dr. Dana Scully in The Theatre on King’s stage recreation of The X-Files (photo: Andy Carroll / TTOK)

If you haven’t heard yet, The X-Files have landed in Peterborough. Director Kate Story, along with some excellent talent, has turned the quintessential ‘monster-of-the-week’ television show into a live theatre spectacle right in downtown Peterborough.

The serialized drama plays every Tuesday night at The Theatre on King, with episodes showing twice each night; once at 8:00pm and once at 9:30pm. The serial started on June 16th, and I made it out to the June 23rd episode, titled “Squeeze,” a title that fans of the series might recognize. It’s also the second episode in the series, in which a series of strange murders takes place.

There is no tangible way into and out of the scenes of the crime. Lead investigators, and protagonists, Dana Scully (Sarah McNeilly) and Fox Mulder (Ryan Kerr) suspect the seemingly immortal, and incredibly creepy Eugene Victor Toons (Andrew Little), in spite of some impossible circumstances surrounding the case. It makes for the classic crime-drama formula; a case solved by the ingenuity and hard work of the protagonists, with a touch of cheese and a sprinkling of deus ex machina.

What makes The X-Files so unique and successful is that when it aired, it united far-out conspiracy wing-nuts and popcorn-popping television-watching families, and this lives on in Story’s live theatre adaptation.

As a theatre production, the adaptation of The X-Files makes use of some elaborate props, effects and projections, tying cleverly into the type of bare-bones setup that works so well at the Theatre On King. For those who have never been; go! It is black-box theatre at its best.

The show opens in black, with the famous theme song we can all whistle, even if we haven’t seen the show, and music is tied into the whole production. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it does a great job bridging the gap between the mediums of television and live theatre. Jump-cuts are even used, often to quite clever comedic effect, with blackouts creating senses of montage and cliff-hanger used in the actual show when it aired. The lighting design is simple and effective, making full use of the capabilities of the space. And the projections add to the aesthetic eeriness of the show.

The whole production is well-acted, and carried on the shoulders of McNeilly and Kerr, who serve as impresarios and physical comedians at the same time. They at once poke fun at, and bring to life the two primary characters. Like most television shows, the serial features a number of recurring actors and some who will only appear in one or two episodes, which makes it feel at once familiar and real.

The whole company does a good job of manipulating the set, props and space, in order to creatively convey the massive, supernatural scope of the show in the confined space of the Theatre on King. While the audience doesn’t always buy it, the actors do a good job of making tongue-and-cheek jokes to cover the places where suspension of disbelief doesn’t quite cut it.

Each actor’s commitment to the show shines through and we feel their pushing and pulling as they relate to and battle against each other. It actually feels like The X-Files, and the actors are to thank. Overall, it’s clever, entertaining theatre that brings the audience along for the 50 minute episodic journey, made more palpable by removal of the barrier of the screen.

However, it’s as an adaptation where The X-Files, theatre edition, shines. The actors, director and designers manage to capture the cheese of the early 90’s, and poke fun at it, without ever alienating the material from what’s taking place on stage. While not an X-Files fanatic, I was able to appreciate the show. However, if you’re a fanatic, you simply must go. The inside jokes, references and Easter eggs are abundant. It’s corny, but never loses the creepy factor, and it’s the same time of campiness that made the original so imminently appreciable.

If you’re around on Tuesday June 30th or Tuesday July 7th, save up $10 and go see The X-Files at The Theatre on King. But get there early, as the show will well-deservedly and most definitely sell out.

Recordings of the show are available online: