The Red Queen Effect is a brand new production that explores the corporate culture that shapes today’s economy. In it, Alice steps through a mirror of normal life and into a psychotic Wonderland, a financial corporation that’s full of glass ceilings for women and grotesque games are played with client cash.
As Nicholas Campbell (Da Vinci’s Inquest) explains, it’s a very different world from his, or ours, and the ridiculous bits are perfect for generating laughs.
“This production finds ways to be funny about the business world, which is important if you want to send a message,” says Campbell by phone. “To deal with serious issues, it’s good to be funny.”
The title of the play refers to the Red Queen from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass from 1871. In that famous novella, the Red Queen explains to Alice that to run is to stay in one place. To get anywhere else, you have to run twice as fast.
According to Campbell, corporate life really is like that, especially for women.
“In the real corporate world, women have to work twice as hard,” explains Campbell, “but this play is instructive from both sides (of the mirror). I more or less represent the real world, as far as integrating women into the work force. My character is the Cheney-type, a Bush guy, a Vancouver business man.”
Normally depicted as flinty-eyed men in suits all backstabbing one another, financial corporations are theatre’s Unexplored Country, causing recessions and redistributing wealth as if by magic. While Campbell is famous for playing a tough cop, the macho sexism that still permeates much of corporate culture is miles away from his own profession.
“Actors are really into equalization,” says Campbell.“In England, you never refer to someone as an “actress,” for example. Those people are models, or nude models, something more burlesque.”
But it’s not all about social justice, either. While The Red Queen Effect depicts unevenness in terms of gender parity in the corporate workplace, it also reveals Toronto’s live theatre power.
“Toronto’s exciting not only because there’s an audience for live theatre, but the right kind of actors are here, too,” Campbell says. “Toronto actors love the stage. But there’s very little in the way of mainstream plays happening in, say, New York. Actors there want to go straight to films and television. But live theatre there is dead.”