Spotlight on: Karen and Plankton
3-minute read // Published by Young Peoples Theatre, June 2022
Written by Holly Fishlock
Pictured: Maddie Newland and Jackson Archer as Karen and Plankton
The SpongeBob Musical already one week into performances, we sat down with our Planktons, Jackson Archer (Mermaid Man) and Alan Shao (Barnacle Boy), as well as our Karens, Maddie Newland (Mermaid Man) and Hannah Richens (Barnacle Boy), to ask them about their experience in SpongeBob and how they have developed their characters.
Tell us more about the characters of Karen and Plankton. What role do they play in the shows storyline?
Jackson: I find these two to be particularly interesting with their adaptation from the cartoon. They are a major catalyst within the story’s progression, however, it is actively portrayed and exaggerated through witty cutaway gags between the two. Their progression seems to happen in bursts of these scenes nestled in between major events of the rest of the cast, keeping it smooth and engaging.
Maddie: Karen and Plankton, as always, want to shift the town from loving the Krusty Krab, to loving the Chum Bucket. This time around they have come up with a scheme to hypnotise the town while they are distracted by the volcano. While SpongeBob, Sandy and Patrick are trying their best to save the town, Karen and Plankton are there at every turn trying to stop them.
Has it been challenging taking on these roles that were initially cartoons?
Alan: It has been challenging with regard to respecting the origin of these famous characters. It has been difficult to respect the original depiction of Plankton while also applying my own unique flair. The part that isn’t necessarily easy but lends itself to adaptation is the absurdity of the characters and their motivations. The medium of theatre is nothing if not the application of the suspension of disbelief. Plankton’s unrelenting determination to steal the Krabby Patty formula day after day is admirable really. There has been special care though, to ensure that the characters while ‘cartoons’ are not unbelievable, need to be realistic enough to create real stakes within the play otherwise Plankton’s plan to [redacted for spoilers] to prevent Spongebob from [redacted] with his massive [redacted] would not hold the same jaw-clenching tension and stakes that the show has created.
Hannah: It has been challenging because Karen is a computer, therefore there is no physicality you can take from her. She is very intriguing to explore and experiment with as there is a lack of physicality which makes our performance entirely our own interpretation.
As you’ve experimented with and developed these characters, have your perspectives on them changed?
Jackson: Very much so, I came into the show with a bias toward Mr Lawrence, the original voice of Plankton and decided to recreate his interpretation for this show. I ended up broadening my horizons after watching the paramount+ special and realising that this show isn’t a recreation, the musical is something different entirely and it must be treated as such. So I kept my voice as a homage to Mr Lawrence but I’ve refined my interpretation to what truly fits the onstage spectacle of The SpongeBob Musical.
Maddie: I haven’t actually seen any episodes of Spongebob, so I came into this show not really knowing much about Karen beyond her being a computer. It has been really fun developing her character, and working out how to add emotion to a robot. After working on the show it’s become quite clear that she does a lot more and often fixes the problems for Plankton because while she holds some resentment from their 20 years of marriage she does have affection for him, it’s just hidden behind lots of wiring.
What is your favourite Plankton and Karen scene?
Alan: Well, I absolutely adore the scene where Plankton [redacted for spoilers] and concocts a masterful plan to [redacted] with a [redacted] so big it could destroy [redacted] it’s so much fun to be a part of and even more impressive to watch. The special effect alone bankrupted our theatre.
Hannah: My favourite scene is the “Going Gets Tough” scene in which Plankton and Karen get to boogie and everyone sees Karen and Plankton, front and centre before they go back into their evil hiding.
How do you find it working in a strong character duo such as Plankton and Karen?
Jackson: I find it really fun to experiment and work with such strong and interesting characters and character dynamics. Working as Plankton and Karen with Maddie Newland has been a real pleasant experience, they have great comedic opportunities together and I enjoy embodying them onstage. The perfect example of a comic power couple.
Maddie: It’s been a lot of fun working with these characters, figuring out the dynamic between the two and getting the chance to perform again.
Why should people come and see the SpongeBob Musical?
Alan: You shouldn’t. Well, you shouldn’t come to see the eponymous Spongebob at least. He’s a terrible fry cook and makes terrible burgers. Plankton on the other hand… is amazing and I hear his chum burgers are so good it’s almost hypnotising. They should name it Plankton the Musical. You should definitely come to see Plankton in the poorly named Spongebob the Musical!
Hannah: Both casts are absolutely incredible, which means the show is going to be fantastic! Also, SpongeBob is so much fun, you’ll boogie in your seats and have many laughs!