The Fourth Annual Gabriola Theatre Festival unfolded with its usual sparkling, spectacular, sublime splendour the weekend of Aug. 17, 18, and 19.
I felt like a princess; Cinderella at the royal ball. But, unlike poor Cinderelly who only had a few hours before the midnight chimes rang out to end her dreamy night of romance and delight, I had three nights and days to enjoy top-notch entertainment, and I got to share it with everyone! Well, practically everyone: my sincere sympathy to anyone who could not attend and thus missed out on a whole bunch of fun and some damn fine plays, too!
So, here am I to review those fine plays for you!
I shall begin with the first play, “Billy Bishop Goes to War”, written by John MacLachlan Gray; Gerry Mackay, director: Sarah Wallin, stage manager; and, performed to perfection by Neil Minor, in the role of Billy Bishop, and Gordon Roberts, in the role of pianist and narrator.
This play tells the compelling story of a bona fide Canadian hero, Billy Bishop, who, seeking to escape the mud and grime of horses and trenches, applies for service as an airman – a pilot – in the fledgling air corps. Although rather rotten at attaining certain salient skills as a pilot, i.e., he often crash-landed his planes, Billy did manage to score many “kills” and was lauded and applauded by British nobility – even the King – and was awarded several medals.
Both Gordon Roberts and Neil Minor shone in their performances. Minor brilliantly morphed from a confused Canadian soldier to a high ranking British commander (only slightly less confused!). He also delighted the audience with a sultry nightclub song, complete with one leg suggestively resting on the seat of a chair and French accented lyrics.
I thoroughly enjoyed this play, as did the audience. I particularly noted and appreciated Bishop’s occasional turmoil of mind and spirit when experiencing and reflecting upon some of the many horrors of war. Three gold stars: no war medals if you please: these are for creativity, not destructivity!
Kingbaby Productions from Bowen Island was back this year with a marvelous play, “The Jackie Show”, written and flawlessly performed by Jackie Minns.
Minns had the audience riveted as she smoothly segued from one lively character to the next: from old woman Mabel to new age healer Angel to pirogy (a blend of pilates, aerobics, and yoga) fitness instructor Svetlatta and more!
I laughed and I cried. Jackie Minns is truly talented and most assuredly deserves three gold stars: my highest number!
“The Old Maid and The Thief” was a total delight! Set in a radio station studio in 1939, this play went for authentic in every way, from the costumes to the hair styles – even lifestyles (lots of cigarette smoking going on but … not to worry – no second hand smoke round here – no smoke at all!).
The opera was sung in English and the amusing story illustrated the folly of mistaken assumptions. There is no end, it seems, to the lengths to which an old maid would go to attain her thwarted dreams of love!
This being radio, every 15 minutes or so, the announcer’s voice would proclaim, “now here’s a word from our sponsors!” and the Three Graces would deliver a nostalgic little ditty like, “Ajax, the foaming cleanser”. Three gold stars: BRAVO!
“The Housekeeper”, a Gabriola Players production (hey, homegrown!) began rather flatly but was rescued by James Prideaux’s very well-written script. By the end of the first act there was a noticeable improvement as the actors, particularly Mark Smith, started to “make it real”. The second act revealed some clever twists and surprises in the pot, oops, plot! I really liked the stage set, too.
Miranda Holmes did a fine job of portraying an older woman keeping calm and calculating in order to deal with desperate circumstances and succeeding in fine style. Two gold stars, one silver star: my first silver star!
“Sonofabitch Stew” was a major disappointment for me, especially as I had been dubbing it the “dark horse”, the jewel in the rough, of the festival and talking it up.
I didn’t think I could even write a review of it, mostly because Daune Campbell is a gifted actor who gave a wholehearted performance and she deserves a good review.
After hours of deep thinking, aided by several glasses of Rose Veneto, I finally found the flaw. Unlike “The Housekeeper” which managed to stay afloat and reach the port of approval, due in large part to the strength of James Prideaux’s script, “Sonofabitch Stew” hit the iceberg of an unsympathetic character in Brian Peterson’s script.
That character was Janet Payne and she certainly lived up to her last name: what an unmitigated PAIN! Gratuitously cruel, and obnoxiously and quite unnecessarily confrontational, Janet Payne first confused then annoyed and alienated her audience.
Calamity Jane, in stark contrast, won the audience with her wit, her courage, her kindness, her vulnerability, and her unflinching honesty. Calamity Jane strove to be a person at a time when a woman was deemed NOT to be a person, but rather, the ward of her father or husband. Women had no rights in the 19th century: there was a plethora of issues to confront, to oppose. Jane did it with panache, with heart, with kindness.
I should make something clear here: Daune Campbell performed both the part of Calamity Jane and Janet the Payne. I liked those times when Calamity Jane was telling us her story. And, Daune, if you read this, you were terrific – a most powerful performer. YOU get three gold stars.
Brian Peterson, please take note: one doesn’t have to be a pain to be an activist. LOVE, Brian, it’s all about the energy. One slightly tarnished silver star.
“The Hope Slide”, a one woman play performed by Terri-Lyn Storey, written by Joan MacLeod, was wonderfully moving and inspiring. I thoroughly enjoyed both Terri-Lyn’s excellent acting and Joan MacLeod’s insightful and compelling script.
The stories of the Doukhobours and their struggle to live peacefully in community and with harmony and without interference from government and police were heart-wrenching and thought-provoking. Terri-Lyn’s portrayal of Irene’s youth and the travails and tribulations of teen times was funny; touchingly familiar, with a wisdom all its own! Three gold stars: richly deserved!
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