by Lynn on July 23, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the 4th Line Theatre, Millbrook, Ont. Written and directed by Robert Winslow. Set by Denise Lisson. Costumes by Anne Redish. Original music composition and musical direction by Justin Hiscox. Starring: Griffin Clark, Heidi Lynch, Dov Mickelson, Jake Vanderman  Tim Ziegler and many others.

For 22 summers Robert Winslow has been producing original plays to be performed at 4th Line Theatre, his theatre company that performs its plays in the barn yard of his family farm. The plays usually deal with the history of the area and are often written by Winslow himself. The plays are performed by a company of actors who are mainly amateur with a few professional actors sprinkled in to the mix. Many professional actors today got their start at 4th Line Theatre. The setting is magical. The barn yard is surrounded by fields and meadows. It’s not unusual for a character to appear way in the distance in a horse and buggy or on a horse, or running across the meadow.

The Winslows of Derryvore is a departure from exploring the history of the area. In it Winslow goes back a few hundred years to explore his family’s roots in Ireland and England. The play was first done in 1995. Robert Winslow revives it this year.

Robert Winslow’s synopsis in the play’s program gives us an idea of the complexity of the story and the situations:


“At the beginning of the 17 Century large tracks of land in the northern regions of Ireland were seized by the English Crown and granted to Scottish and English landowners known as ‘undertakers.’ These lords were to settle the land with British colonists. This land grab was known as the Plantation of Ulster and involved the confiscation of six million acres formerly held by the Irish clans.

My ancestor, Guy Winslow, was ‘planted’ in Derryvore in the manor of Aghalane, Barony of Knockninny, County of Fermanagh, around 1617.  He found himself the freeholder or owner of 500 acres in an area that had been the ancestral home of the Maguire clan for over 1,000 years. The  Maguires had been stripped of their lands after the Seven Years War against the English in the last decade of the 16th Century. By the mid-1600s only one Maguire, Brian Maguire, held any land in the County of Fermanagh.

The Winslows of Derryvore takes place in various locations throughout the County of Fermanagh, Ireland from 1617 to 1690.”

It’s a huge play, as one could imagine, involving English, Irish and Scottish people and all the intertwining that develops. An (English) Winslow falls in love with an (Irish) Maguire and she with him to a certain extent but then falls for her own countryman. Emotions run high; animosity is ever present. It seems that such negative emotions are taught with out reason. So the Irish naturally hate the English even though they might have grown up friends with an Englishman who is innocent of any wrongdoing. It’s interesting to see roots of the ‘troubles’ that would follow. It’s also interesting that no matter the time of place, young people will fall in love with whomever they like regardless of history or animosity of families.

Playwright Robert Winslow has accomplished a herculean task; to show the history of his English ancestors in Ireland and how they coped. The mere scope of the piece is impressive. There are at least 95 characters in the piece and keeping track of all of then and who they are and how they are connected is a challenge for the audience as well. Perhaps too much of a challenge. I can’t help but think that there might be several more plays about Winslow’s family before we find out how they came to settle in Millbrook on that farm. I also can’t help but think that the play could do with judicious cutting. At 95 characters and two hours and thirty minutes running time, it’s too long and unwieldy.

Winslow also directs the play and uses even the far reaches of the farm. It’s always impressive to see a character in the distance,  running through the meadow towards the barn as Dov Mickelson does as O’hEoghusa, the sage of the piece—he is a magical character with a keep sense of history and the future. Equally as impressive are several riders on horseback charging across the field. But too often scenes take place far off in the fields and the actors have no choice but to yell their lines to be heard.

As is always the case most of the company are actors from the community with a very few ‘professional’ actors rounding out the company. Here too with all the running around of many characters, their acting seems just so much breathless intensity. Again, one noted in an effort to be heard.

Still just getting this huge show on is impressive.

The Winslows of Derryvore plays at the 4th Line Theatre until July 27.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.