On January 15 a photo of the poster for Geekenders’ original show, Portal 2: The (Unauthorized) Musical, was uploaded to reddit. It has since garnered over 4,000 views and commented on 1,285 times. On imgur, the show poster has received over a million views. With its online exposure and with people now purportedly flying in from all over the world for opening night, it is a made-in-Vancouver show that has grown into something bigger than anything the creators ever thought possible.
[pullquote]Despite several attempts to contact Valve about the project, creator Fairlith Harvey has yet to receive any official word from the company. However, this seems to be in keeping with the developer’s tradition of unofficially encouraging creative content based on their games.[/pullquote]“I always wanted to produce a musical, but the biggest challenge is the attention we’ve gotten. We feel a lot more pressure now that we know the internet is watching,” says Fairlith Harvey, writer and star of Portal 2: The (Unauthorized) Musical.
As a theatre professional, Harvey took her theatre school advice to heart by creating her own work, but struggled with how she could convince people to come see an original piece.
“The formula that we landed on is a very loving parody of classic pop culture or things that have a rabid fan base,” she says. “Portal isn’t a classic, but it has a very devoted fan base.”
Portal 2, released in 2011, is a first person puzzle-platform game created by Valve Corporation. It follows Chell, a living test subject who must complete a series of dark and increasingly twisted obstacle courses devised by an artificial intelligence known as GLaDOS.
“A lot of what happens is really disturbing but it’s really funny because of Valve’s world,” explains Harvey. “It’s this beautiful feeling of laughing in the dark while you’re shuddering.”
Portal 2 has a smart story, a combination of mystery and dark comedy that resonates with legions of fans worldwide. Aspects of the game, most notably the companion cube – a six sided grey box with a pink heart glowing on the side and the phrase, “the cake is a lie” – have become embedded in the modern cultural fabric.
It’s not just the fans of Portal that are recognizing the efforts of this local theatre company, as Harvey has received word that a very special guest would be coming to Vancouver to see the show.
“We weren’t planning on it having this kind of reception,” she says. “We wrote it as a parody and didn’t expect that Valve [the developers of the game] would hear about it. But one of their top programmers is coming to see the show on Saturday.”
Despite several attempts to contact Valve about the project, Harvey has yet to receive any official word from the company. However, this seems to be in keeping with the developer’s tradition of unofficially encouraging creative content based on their games. In the past, they have allowed fans to monetize both gaming and spoof videos without a word. Harvey jokes that Valve will probably (unofficially) love it as the show offers free promotion of their game and fodder for hungry fans.
Even with all the attention that Portal 2: The (Unauthorized) Musical has garnered, plus talk of a Kickstarter tour, cast album, and a Youtube recording in the works, the show is above all else a labour of love. Bringing together a group of local actors with a common goal, they have become a tight-knit group of friends who have bonded together to create something special.
“I was really depressed before we started rehearsal, but once we started I just came to life,” grins Harvey who plays GLaDOS in the show. “I’m just so happy all the time. I hope that anyone who comes to this show feels that way too because it has just totally turned my life around. I hope the audience feels that.”
Portal 2: The (Unauthorized) Musical plays the Rio Theatre (1660 East Broadway, Vancouver) January 30-February 1. Tickets and information are available online at https://riotheatretickets.ca.