Review: FURY

by Lynn on September 1, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Blyth Festival, Blyth, Ontario.

Written by Peter Smith
Directed by Micheline Chevrier
Set and Costumes by Ronnie Burkett
Music by Samuel Shouldice
Lighting by Robert Thompson
Cast: Keith Barker
Rachel Cairns
Jason Chesworth
David Fox
Jeff Irving

A gripping piece of Canadiana about the Great Lakes Storm of 1913 and the people affected by it.

The Story. Margaret Mackey was sent from England to Goderich, Ontario to spend time with her stern uncle, Judge Cassidy. Something has haunted Margaret and we slowly learn what it was. She has an obsession with Lake Huron and the Wexford, a ship that sails the Great Lakes. Goderich is the town right by that lake. It was thought that if she got away from her bad memories she would be happier. But her stern, brittle uncle is the last person to give her solace. He too has his own demons only he hasn’t been able to face them.

He tutors Margaret. He expects her to be educated and adhere to his way of thinking. Margaret has other ideas. This sends her uncle into a rage. Her uncle arranges for Margaret to marry David Cooper, a young business man of his choosing. Margaret agrees because she has no choice. But then she meets Michael Grey, a man familiar with the shady side of life, who has charm for days. They are both smitten and changed.

He signs on to work on the Wexford. Then for three days in November of 1913 a horrific storm affecting all the Great Lakes wrecks havoc. It is the test of the courage and tenacity of not only Michael and Margaret, but also for the men on all the ships caught in the storm and their families.

Playwright Peter Smith has captured the sense of fury, not only in the storm, but also in the unsettled lives of Margaret, her uncle and even the happy-go-lucky Michael. It’s that sense of bubbling emotions that he’s captured. He has also evoked the deeply emotional feelings of both Michael and Margaret. Margaret has a speech to Michael that is stunning in its poetical expression.

The Production. The extraordinary set is designed by the extraordinary Ronnie Burkett, designer and creator of the Theatre of Marionettes. Ordinarily Burkett keeps his creativity to the world of his marionettes. In the case of Fury he has created a stark, almost abstract dock and boat with large structures circled by rope. The look is austere, cold, and forbidding. It evokes a Lauren Harris painting. Absolutely stunning.

Director Micheline Chevrier has created the fury of the storm with imagination and a chilling realism. Characters are buffeted around the deck of the Wexford as the wind and the appropriate sound (Samuel Sholdice) howls and blows. Shivering is a natural result.

As Margaret Mackey, Rachel Cairns gives her a tight-jawed stubbornness. She needs it to stand her ground, be true to herself, and be an independent woman. But Cairns also gives Margaret a softness when she’s with Michael. She’s more mature than he is, but she is also vulnerable.

Michael Grey is charming, impish, impetuous, and flirty as played by Jeff Irving. Grey is the kind of man a mother warns her daughter against. But he’s the kind of man who is smitten and falls hard when he meets his match in Margaret.

As Judge Cassidy, David Fox is ramrod straight and commanding. He mixes a calmness with his resolve when debating with Margaret. Judge Cassidy is that successful despot who hides his own pain and secrets. David Fox also brings out the insecurity and sadness of Judge Cassidy. It’s a performance of many colours.

Comment. The Blyth Festival is that wonderful jewel of a theatre festival that produces only Canadian plays in the heart of cottage/farm country. Imagine it. And it has a healthy, loyal audience. Fury is part of Artistic Director Gil Garratt’s first season. I was only able to see this and Mary’s Wedding (reviewed tomorrow). These bode well for Garratt’s stint there. He’s a fine actor and director and he’s devoted to the Blyth Festival. I look forward to more. And I’ll definitely make the effort to see his whole season next summer.

Produced by the Blyth Festival

Run: July 29 to September 12, 2015
Cast: 5; 4 men, 1 woman.
Running Time: 2 hours.

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