by Lorraine Payette, written September 15, 2013
(GANANOQUE, ON) – All of us are better when we’re loved.”
Truer words have never been spoken, and “No Great Mischief” is a love story, not of young and foolish people coming together on a star crossed path, but of the hard and sometimes almost impossible love of a man for his brother, and by extension, his entire family.
“It’s interesting,” said Kathrine Christensen. “It’s kind of a throwback, a 70s type of show with that sort of laid back feel to it. But there are bits of it that I find are making me feel very emotional – the talk of loss and family.”
Written in an almost stream of consciousness style, the play moves back and forth through time, settling momentarily in many different areas before coming back to what appears to be the main theme.
“It’s enjoyable,” said Marvin Rolls. “The acting is really well done, and I think I’m going to have to read the book now. It looks like it will be one nice book to read.”
“It’s intriguing, when you read what’s written in the programme and then watch it on the stage,” said Jean MacKay-Baudoux. “I think it’s clever in the way in which it’s acted. It keeps you on the edge of your seat just waiting to see what the next move is going to be. I think the acting is super. All of a sudden, when they’re leading you up to a point, the whole scene changes and you’re pulled forward just wondering what else is going to happen. It’s highly enjoyable.”
Many in the audience expressed similar feelings. By using a minimalist style of set and costume, the play takes you everywhere, from a squalid apartment in the seedier part of Toronto to deep underground in the mines, from a playful hillside with childhood companions to a neighbourhood pharmacy. And all without a single change of set.
“I think it takes you, without knowing, to another place, which I think is the whole purpose of a good play or book,” said Holly Turnbull. “All of a sudden you’re on a boat, or you’re back in time, and I think the music also adds tremendously to it. It’s really timely, just the accent and the blending of voices, and the way that Alexander can be a three-year-old or six-year-old boy. The family connections are so strong, so powerful, and you can see how they brought people through all those difficult times. I’m really enjoying it. I would absolutely recommend it to others.”
“I’m particularly enjoying it because I did take a trip up around Cape Breton and saw the pilot whales and it really takes me back,” said Margot Moiner. “It’s very enjoyable.”
Some found a bit of confusion, however, and mixed feelings about what was going on in front of them. The mixing of languages and the constant shifting from place to place and time to time left them somewhat unbalanced.
“I think the acting is very good and the writing is excellent,” said Karen Bach. “It’s a bit difficult to follow at times, just with the Gaelic that they’re introducing, but I find it very, very interesting just to watch all the dynamics and the interpersonal action between the various family members.”
“I like the mixture between the present and the past,” said Selma Chaker.
“It’s really extremely different,” said Nancy Stewart. “I’m enjoying it, but I’m not getting all the Gaelic parts, so I’m kind of on the borderline.”
“I’m having a little difficulty understand some of it, with the jumping back and forth,” said Bill Stewart. “It can make it harder to understand. I’m enjoying a few of the parts, but not all of it.”
The play does not follow the standard forms one associates with most theatre. By remaining in the midst of a rolling stream of consciousness, it can resemble jumping into a log drive on a river, never quite knowing where you’ll land next.
“I have some Cape Breton blood in my background,” said Ali. “We’re enjoying it in a mixed sort of way. It doesn’t seem to have a real beginning, middle and end. I knew that times were hard and all those kind of things – it’s a great interpretation of that. It’s quite interesting.”
The players themselves enjoy the play and the wonderful challenges it presents. Unlike so much theatre, it can never be described as cut and dried.
“In a disposable world, there’s something elegant in this play like an artesian well which carries us back to something, the roots of who we are and I think that’s the thing that’s all powerful,” said Daniel Giverin (who plays Brother #1).
“It asks the audience to engage in the imaginative,” said R. H. Thomson (Alexander MacDonald). “Six chairs, a bare stage, and once you’ve engaged imaginatively, you’ve journeyed into the story far deeper than if we’d used CGI (computer generated imagery) effects and literally showed you what we wanted you to see. CGI is such a deadening literalism of showing the audience everything, don’t make them imagine one nanosecond. This is a reversal in that you imagine everything and in that act of imagining, you enter a place that you may never forget. Your imaginations are far stronger than what we can do up here, so our job is to ignite that rolling imaginative work that starts to happen.”
Also refreshing for many is the fact that this is truly Canadian theatre. It’s about the people here, their lives, their stories, their past, present and future. It draws the audience in because they know these people and people like them. These are Canadian families and Canadian history, not fantasies from far away.
“Part of our job is to tell stories about Canada,” said David Fox (Calum MacDonald). “To tell stories about Cape Breton, or a part of Nova Scotia, part of Newfoundland or downtown Toronto. Here we can do that, so we bring Cape Breton to life. It’s such a wonderful journey to do that kind of thing as an actor and visit all these places imaginatively. It’s a magic place.”
The cast loves Gananoque and the fact that when they go out on a break, they can be right on the water.
“There’s so much going on,” said Giverin. “It’s not downtown Toronto – I found that this is such an unusual setting. You can feel such a pleasure in the audience to come to a show here, a joy that isn’t anywhere else.”
“No Great Mischief” runs at the TI Playhouse, South Street, Gananoque, from September 13 – October 5. Show times are Tuesday through Saturday 8:00 pm, with matinees on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm (starting the Wednesday after opening night). Tickets are $32 for adults, $30 for seniors age 65+, $16 for students. Half priced preview is September 13. HST is applicable to all ticket prices. Group tickets are available at $26 – $28 each including GST. This show is recommended for people of all ages. For more information, please go to http://www.1000islandsplayhouse.com or contact the box office at 613-382-7020.