This past Saturday night, March 27, was the final night for the Elizabeth Boardmore One Act Play Festival. On this night, the audience saw two very different plays with very different levels of experience.
The first play of the night was The Sky is Purple, written by Mike MacKenzie and directed by Brian Gallivan. This play is about a broken family. In the middle of the mess is Brad (played by Jonathan Lewis), a teenager who is trying to deal with his parents’ recent divorce. Brad is seeing a social worker who is trying to help him choose which one of the parents he wants to live with. If that wasn’t enough for Brad to deal with, he also has a very jealous girlfriend who can’t stand the fact that Brad is talking about his problems with a very close female friend. As Brad learns more about his parents and how things came to be, he is left with a decision that could change his life, and his relationships, forever.
The cast of this play was mostly made of students from Class Act’s drama program. This was the third time the play was produced by this group. It is great that this festival gives students a chance to perform and experience the process of live theatre by actually staging a show that was written by someone who went through the same program. Their performances were filled with young energy and you could really get a sense of their love for the stage. Doing a play like this will really help them collect all the lessons they learn in class and apply them to an actual audience. One of the things I noticed was how nervous they seemed to be. With only one night to perform this piece you could tell they really wanted to do a good job. There were some great performances from some of the more experienced of the group. Mark Oliver played the boy’s father. He played the role with a lot of humour while slowly bringing across the more angry side of his character through the story. Also, Allison Haley was hilarious as Clare, the boy’s future stepmother. Haley has appeared in several of the plays during this festival and has been a delight to watch every time!
The play was directed by Brian Gallivan who is no stranger to the Boardmore stage. Gallivan is the instructor for Class Act’s drama program and has been teaching theatre for years now. Gallivan took a very straight-forward approach to directing this play. He kept things simple and went right for the meat of the script with his actors. Directing is all about making choices. And Gallivan made some good ones here by playing up the humour of the script, which may not have been touched by another director. There were only a few problems I noticed during this piece. I noticed that he made the choice to use grey, plastic chairs as the main set pieces. Although this can be very useful when it comes to changing the set quickly, I find the look of the chairs to be very tacky. The chairs were used as everything from park benches to a couch. I would have liked to have seen a better solution to quick changes. I also had a problem with the lighting. Most of the action was downstage yet the entire space was lit completely. If there is nothing going on at the back of the stage then it should be darkened, keeping the audience more focused on the action in front of them. I would have liked to have seen a better lighting design.
I found the script that Mackenzie wrote was great for young actors—very emotional and easy for them to relate to. Again though, this script had the same problem that has come up a few times already during the festival. It was too long and had too many set changes. Set changes can really slow a play down. When working on this script, try to find ways to keep the scenes to as few locations as possible. It will really improve the pace and energy.
Great job from the cast and crew of The Sky is Purple!
The second play was Landscape by Harold Pinter and directed by John Lingard. If you are a fan of Pinter or not, you cannot avoid how good this production was.
There is not much I can say about the story of this show. It follows Beth, a woman in her forties and Duff, a man in his early fifties played by Wilma Menzies and Gary Walsh. The two characters are sitting on stage remembering, to themselves, very wonderful moments in their lives. The two characters hardly seem to notice each other except every now and then, Duff seems to be trying to connect with her. What is really going on is totally up to you. You make it what you want it to be.
Watching these two on stage was wonderful. It was so nice to see two very experienced actors work really well together. Every line was heard perfectly. Every emotion was hit right on the head and every joke was laugh-out-loud funny. There is not a bad thing I can say about anything these two did on that stage that night.
John Lingard really knew what he wanted with this script. There was a table and a chair lit perfectly. You could actually tell that the lighting meant something. It had a purpose. It almost even had an emotion. When you make simple choices—like set pieces and lighting—and make them work for the story and the actors, it really shows. Again, Lingard did all the right things here and the audience loved it.
After the plays was the awards ceremony. The festival adjudicator, Marguerite McNeil, handed out awards to actors, writers and directors who she felt went above and beyond this year. It is great to see artists acknowledged for their work with something they can take home and put on their shelves. This was a great one act festival this year and everyone deserves all the credit in the world for the work that was done. At the end of every year, I already can’t wait for the next. Great job everyone! Here is a list of the awards that were handed out on Saturday night:
Most Promising New Actor: Connor Charron for Forgive Us Our Trespasses
Most Promising New Actress: Danna Martin for Zombies vs. Robots
Most Promising New Playwright: Mark Oliver and Wesley J. Colford for Forgive us our Trespasses
Best Supporting Actor: Dave Petrie in Forgive Us Our Trespasses
Best Supporting Actress: Anna Spencer in Zombies vs. Robots
Best Leading Actor: Michael Taylor and Jonathan Collins in Breaking the Tower
Best Leading Actress: Allison Haley in Zombies vs. Robots
Best Production: Landscape by Harold Pinter, directed by John Lingard
Outstanding Direction: Scott Sharplin for Zombies vs. Robots
Best Original Script: Jenn Tubrett for Notte Del Partito
Most Outstanding Overall: Lindsay Thompson for Breaking the Tower
Technical Achievement: Ken Heaton, lighting designer
Outstanding Comic Duo: James F.W. Thompson and Erin Gillis in Zombies vs. Robots
The Carl Drinovz Special Service Award: David Sneddon, Ken Heaton, Bruce Cathcart, Scott Sharplin