Rick Maddocks is not a religious man. The self-described “free agent” isn’t even a worshipper of Vancouver’s other religion, the Canucks. So it’s particularly curious, even daring, that the writer and musician’s latest project, The Meal, is not only a theatrical song cycle inspired by the Gospel of John, and the Gnostic Gospels of Thomas, Judas and Mary Magdalene, as well as surrealist Luis Buenel’s film The Exterminating Angel, but that it opens at Pacific Theatre, April 11, the opening night of the NHL playoffs and the Canucks first-round match up against the godless L.A. Kings.
“We’ll find out what the relationship is between people who like strange heathen takes on gospel music and ice hockey,” says Maddocks, who prefers cleats to skates and likely will have to sacrifice watching one match of his beloved Arsenal during The Meal’s four-day run.
Originally staged as part of last year’s PuSh Festival, The Meal features fours singers from the local indie music scene who sit at a table, swig wine and break bread while awaiting a late guest of honour. Each singer represents one of the four gospels that The Meal draws inspiration from. Maddocks gives voice to Thomas, Jody Glenham is Mary Magdalene, Lucien Drury is John and Caleb Stull is Judas. Fellow musicians Sean Fulton, Stephen Lyons and Jon Wood perform live as The Meal’s “house band.” Together they form what Maddocks has dubbed The Lost Gospel Ensemble.
The author of the short story collection Sputnik Diner and singer-songwriter behind atmospheric roots band The Beige says he didn’t set out to create a quasi mini-opera about the Last Supper, but like many spiritual experiences, something took hold of him.
“I’m really fascinated by myth and allegory and origin stories, which I find are so powerful and hard-wired into us whether we like them to be or not,” Maddocks says. “As for The Meal… it kind of came about by accident. Initially I knew I wanted to do something with a group of singers where we’re sitting down and there’d be a dinner of sorts or some sort of get together… but the whole idea that it was some revisionist take on the Last Supper came very late to the project.”
Despite his incorporation of religious texts, song cycles and nods to “1970s underground gospel funk music,” Maddocks says The Meal shouldn’t be confused with a sit-down version of Jesus Christ Superstar. “[The Meal] goes for understatement a lot more. Instead of razzmatazz of a Broadway approach, it’s trying to give the quality of a ritual as if it’s something that these singers in the band have to work through, so I see it as a ritual in two parts.”
He adds, “We’re not actors. We’re singers.”
And don’t expect any robes, Maddocks says. The Meal is staged as if it’s a modern day formal affair with performers dressed in suit jackets. That said, there is one modern flare The Meal won’t be incorporating when it opens Wednesday night as cars speed down 12th Avenue decorated in Canucks flags and homemade Stanley Cups fashioned out of aluminum foil.
“We could have tried to blend [the Canucks game] into the show, I guess,” Maddocks says. “But we’re not going to be checking our email or texting while we’re at the table. That would be trying to be too modern day.”
The Meal runs April 11 to 14 at Pacific Theatre. For more info and tickets, go to pacifictheatre.org.