Friday evening was the final night of the 40th annual Elizabeth Boardmore One Act Play Festival and we saw a new script by festival veteran James F.W. Thompson, and the awards ceremony hosted by festival adjudicator Marguerite McNeil. It was a great night where everyone watched a funny new show and saw many of the festival participants be awarded for their talent and hard work through the week.
Opening the evening was Black Jack 4: The Homecoming written and directed by James F.W. Thompson. This was a black comedy about the personal side of a killer that you may not always see in the movies. The story opens in a cabin in the woods where we hear scary music and see teenagers screaming and running from what could only be Black Jack himself. As each teenager, already covered in blood, makes their way across the stage, we see the slow walking killer, Black Jack who was played by Michael Taylor. After chasing off the teenagers, we are introduced to Francis and Sandy played by Scott Sharplin and Jenn Tubrett. Francis is Jack Black’s brother and they were told they could use the cabin for the weekend, only to find out that Black Jack was going to be there, performing his day job as a “spree killer”. Even though Sharplin’s character already knew his secret, Black Jack then introduces Tubrett’s character to the reasons and advantages to being a famous murderer.
The show opened up very well with loud, scary music and screaming people running from the slow moving killer. I loved Black Jack’s costume. He was dressed as a blacksmith and wore a welding mask. It was perfect. Whenever Taylor would go offstage to kill again, he would always take a moment to get into character and start the slow moving chase. Taylor brought a lot of humour to the part. When you play a character in a dark comedy who has to perform horrible acts, it’s a real skill to make that character likable. Taylor did that very well. It would have been nice if he took his time more on the dialogue though. He tended to speed through some lines that could have been even funnier if he took the time to really enjoy them. But Taylor was perfect in the part and had the audience laughing the whole way through.
This play had a wonderful cast. We saw Scott Sharplin give a great performance as Jack Black’s brother, Francis. Sharplin really developed the sibling relationship between the two. It was funny to see the two brothers bicker back and forth but he made sure to let the audience know that even though his brother was a vicious killer, he still loved him anyway. We also saw a great performance by Tubrett. She was perfect as Francis’s fiancée, Sandy. The story really needed a straight character to react off of the outlandish situation and to remind the audience why this was funny. As time went on, Tubrett’s character began to understand Black Jack’s ways and supported him. In the end, when Black Jack is shot by a scared teenager in the woods, she reminds Francis that it is his duty to carry on the family business.
This was one of my favorite plays by Thompson. The play had a real point and was direct about it. It was funny and it worked. The audience loved it. My only suggestion, if he were to work on a re-write, is that the explanations by Black Jack tended to repeat themselves a little bit. After the characters and the audience fully understood why he did what he did, he still seemed to be talking about it. I also wouldn’t have minded the killing of Black Jack to happen onstage instead of off. It might have built the tension more towards the end. However, these are very small criticisms of an overall great show. Fantastic work!
And then on to the awards. Marguerite McNeil was the festival adjudicator all week, giving her thoughts and feedback after every night. It’s a great learning opportunity for young performers to learn from her experience. Here are some of the award highlights:
Best Play: Her Body written and directed by Kyle Capstick
Best Actor: Michael Taylor in House
Best Actress: Kristen Woodford for her performance in both Earth’s Last Days and The Voice of Metal
Best Supporting Actor: Greg Woodford in Earth’s Last Days
Best Supporting Actress: Alison Haley for Earth’s Last Days
The Elizabeth Boardmore Award: James F.W. Thompson
Best Director: Todd Hiscock for House
This was a great festival this year and please come out next year and support these young and talented performers as they show off what they can do! Congratulations to everyone involved this year. It was wonderful!