Image: Illustration from The Nest by Jon Klassen

The Nest

Adapted by Brian Quirt
from the novel by Kenneth Oppel

The Nest is a thriller in which ten-year-old Stevie comes to believe that the wasps in the nest on the side of her family’s home are conspiring to replace her deeply ill baby brother with a perfect copy they are manufacturing in the nest. Stevie is drawn into the wasp’s conspiracy to save her brother’s life, but comes to realize, almost too late, what the wasps are actually planning! 

Touching on the realities of many young families, the story weaves Stevie’s sense of her outsider status in the family with her compulsions and anxieties and the family’s splintering in the face of a major health crisis. Can the wasps help, or are they bringing to life both Stevie’s greatest desire and her greatest fears? 

In the terrifying climax of the story the wasps invade the home and only Stevie can protect the baby, bringing the theatrical adaptation to a thrilling close in this new version featuring an ensemble of five female performers.

Dramaturgy & process

Nightswimming is in the early phase of a creative process to adapt Ken’s novel into a theatrical piece, shaped by Brian with the contributions of actors who have participated in readings and workshops. 

Anxiety is a crucial issue among young people, and Ken has found a brilliant way to take us inside that feeling, giving it shape, status and a propulsive narrative. Exploring that through the form of a heart-wrenching thriller is what attracted me to this story.

The initial draft of the adaptation was created by having actors read the text of the novel aloud, mining it for dramatic conflicts, searching for powerful images, and editing it for both length and strong theatrical moments. The adaptation is conceived as an ensemble piece in which the performers will create a vocal soundscape with the audience, an approach tested in early workshop sessions to great effect.

Collaborators

Workshops have benefited from the significant contributions of Tracey Ferencz and Jeff Ho, Brittany Ryan and Jenna Rodgers, and the following actors who have participated in readings: Maddie Bautista, Rachel Cairns, Jasmine Chen, Amanda Cordner, Jani Lauzon, April Leung, Asha Vijayasingham, Michaela Washburn, Bahareh Yaraghi. 

Readings were held at the Banff Centre as part of the 2017 and 2019 Banff Playwrights Lab: participants included Dalal Badr, Patricia Cerra, Alan Dominguez, Sheldon Elter, June Fukumura, Kris Joseph, Emilie Leclerc, Mieko Ouchi, Kristen Padayas, Jenna Rodgers, Mike Tan, Colin Wolf, Adrienne Wong. Thank you all.

Ken’s book was very well received when it was published in 2015. Here are a selection of comments on the book….

In his best work to date, Kenneth Oppel tells the story of a perpetually anxious child with a gravely ill baby brother and persistent dreams of angel-esque creatures… It’s a masterpiece.

The Globe and Mail

Oppel tenderly champions the world of the broken and anxious, the sick and the flawed. Readers will find much to savor here, both scary and subtle.

The New York Times

Read more about Ken Oppel, this novel and his other work here.