Fueled by a desire to bring “men back to the theater, while exploring masculinity in a world of metrosexuals and very strong women,” Urban Aphrodite is adapting Fight Club for the stage.
“Everybody’s expectations are going to be so high, so putting on a facsimile of the movie is always going to fall short,” admits director Tim College who adapted the show from Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel, David Fincher’s 1999 film and Jim Uhl’s original unused script.
“It’s going to work live because the heart of the story is character-based. Viewers will recognize the narrative structure, but there are twists and turns in terms of character.”
Unlike last year’s stage adaptation of Rosemary’s Baby, Fight Club won’t be a traditional sit-down experience. The show’s venue, Arkham, is best-known as one of the city’s top underground clubs, with company founder and assistant director Ann James raving how it fits the show’s underground aesthetic.
She cites Punchdrunk Theatre’s award-winning Sleep No More as inspiration. Their immersive adaptation of Macbeth has taken over warehouses in London and New York City.
“We want to give the audience a chance to participate in this larger-than-life representation of Fight Club,” she says, adding, “there will be no humans hurt. There might be a penguin that is slightly damaged... by the audience.”
Channeling his experience creating New Zealand’s largest independent pro-wrestling company, IPW (in which he also starred as ‘The Dictator of Style’), College promises that the numerous choreographed fight scenes will “be pretty brutal. We want the audience to be a bit uncomfortable, but still on the edge of their seats.”
“Following the baby boomers, consumer culture took over and suddenly the needs, wants and lusts in life were filled with products,” he continues. “All of the violence in the story isn’t about killing, but about the self-discovery that comes with pain.”
With a creative staff of 15 and a cast of 25, it’s Urban Aphrodite’s largest production yet. Awasta Sarif (Starchild: The Little Prince Reborn, The Learned Ladies) stars as Marla, memorably played by Helena Bonham Carter in the film, while Cambio Coffee’s founder Sebastian Martin takes on the role of Tyler Durden.
Although this will be his stage debut, James and College are effusive in their praise of Martin for tapping into the darkness behind the charismatic leader.
“Brad Pitt’s performance was certainly memorable, but I’m not trying to emulate it all,” he explains. “My take is different. I can relate to the feeling that modern men have lost their way. A lot of my friends haven’t been in a fight before. There’s something very primal about that experience.”
To help prepare for the show, the cast spent a month doing extensive boxing training. With his background in the sweet science, Martin quickly established himself as the alpha of the group. While praising his co-stars for “developing good boxing skills, with some able to do Brawl on the Bund if they wanted to,” he sheepishly admits, “I could beat them up if I had to.”
“We punch each other in the face and we’re friends. It’s a weird bond,” he admits. “It’s what Fight Club is about, bringing these guys together through battle.”
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Photos by Sigourney Chin