“It’s sad to be doing it now because I think Alistair would appreciate how I built the humour into it,” playwright and director, Bev Brett, says about her latest project an adaptation of the late Alistair MacLeod’s short story, Vision.
This new one-act play along with two short pieces, Don’t Let the Cat Out and The New Shoes, is being presented by The St. Ann’s Bay Players in association with KITCHENFEST at the Gaelic College’s Hall of the Clans Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (July 1, 2, and 3) at 7pm nightly. July 3 is a pub night offering a Ceilidh with Darrell Keigan and Stewart MacDonald after the evening’s performance.
“Alistair’s is a bit of a dark fairytale: two children go on a boat trip to visit their grandparents and meet a scary old lady in a house and a scary man in a barn,” Brett says, “Only it is Cape Breton so the sea is featured.”
Brett adds, “It is also the story of a story–which I played a bit with last year as well. The story of a man on the last day of fishing season with a battle over fishing grounds looming imparting to his 17 year old son the family history and how he came to know it–from Ireland to Scotland to Cape Breton–and about how things that are deep within are passed down and how he came to know the family.”
MacLeod, who died recently, was the award winning author of the novel, No Great Mischief, and two slim but influential collections of short stories, The Last Salt Gift Of Blood and As Birds Bring Forth The Sun.
MacLeod gave Brett free reign to adapt the story as she wished, a move which she described as “very brave of him”.
In adapting Vision, Brett says she “found the through line of the story, the dramatic structure, and edited out what didn’t move the story ahead. I really tried to keep Alistair’s exact wording wherever possible: I put his dialogue into the mouths of characters. Alistair also has that Gaelic humour. There is a writer character played by Gary Walsh who narrates the story, about a third of it, but there are always characters onstage acting or miming, and puppets. And our first foray into using projected visual images on a screen.”
Brett’s adaptation was previously performed as a theatrical reading.
But, Brett says, “Alistair never got to see the reading that we did and he had told me to feel free to do it again. This time I wanted to do a full-fledged theatre production. And the Gaelic College is a perfect place to do our plays because our mandate is to do plays which reflect the background culture of our community.”
She hopes some of MacLeod’s family, who summer on Cape Breton, will be able to attend one of the play’s performances.
Vision is about an hour and ten minutes and Brett thought it would be good to have a second act, so she added Don’t Let the Cat Out and The New Shoes for a second half hour of theatre. Brett believes a Gaelic sense of humour connects the other two pieces to MacLeod’s work.
“Although I have made these two stories into a bit of slapstick farce, the characters are genuine and our actors are masters at portraying Gaelic characters,” Brett explains.
The cast for Vision includes Gary Walsh, Mary Ann Wilson, Todd Hiscock, Murdena MacDonald, Yvonne Le Blanc, Frank MacKenzie, and Jitka Zgola. The cast for Don’t Let the Cat Out and The New Shoes, tales told by Hector Carmichael and Evelyn Smith, features Murdock MacDonald, George Dauphney, Sue Brown and Joey Burroughs.
Tickets for these performances can be obtained by calling the Gaelic College at (902) 295-3411.