by Lynn on July 28, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Town Hall 1873, Port Perry, Ont. Part of the Theatre on the Ridge Festival

Written by Robert Chafe

Directed by Jeannette Lambermont-Morey

Set and production designed by Carey Nicholson

Lighting by Colin Hughes

Costume coordination by Judith Sanders

Cast: Demi-Lee Bainbridge

Duncan Gibson-Lockhart

Frances Loiselle

Daniel McCormack

Musicians: Manon Ens-Lapointe, Michael Williamson

A young British nurse named Myra Grimsley was posted to a remote community in Newfoundland just after WWI. There was no doctor so Myra was it. She tended to the community with efficiency, directness and a strong backbone. She coped with their old wives’ tales for remedies and set them straight. She revelled in the harsh winters and seemed to thrive. Her contract was for two years but she stayed and worked there even after her contract was up.

For one thing she was wooed by Angus Bennett, a matter-of-fact man in the community. He was a man of few words but Myra understood all of them. They married and by all accounts it was a strong, loving marriage.

I love Robert Chafe’s play. It captures the idiosyncratic people of Newfoundland we have come to know from this true story and others, (ok, let’s say it all together: Come From Away.) And he has taken the story of Myra Grimsley and made her story sing. She was of strong pioneer stock who didn’t shy away from a challenge and looked at every situation as an opportunity. There is a harrowing scene late in the play that illuminates the kind of take charge woman Myra was. She was not afraid of any challenge and knew how to tackle even the most daunting situation with calmness and a clear head. She was revered and honoured in Newfoundland. And she lived to be 100. Astonishing.

Director Jeannette Lambermont-Morey rose to the occasion of the play and even more impressive, took a generally young cast and made them rise to the occasion too. Lambermont-Morey staged and directed this complex play with various locations with imagination, spareness of props that were used to create vivid images and a clear eye for the telling detail. She added two musicians (Manon Ens-Lapointe on vocals and violin and Michael Williamson, vocals and guitar) to get us in the mood beforehand by playing traditional Newfoundland music) and they also added musical accompaniment during the production for the authentic Newfoundland sound. Demi-Lee Bainbridge and Daniel McCormack play various characters with energy and commitment.

The set by Carey Nicholson was simple and effective. A table and two chairs became everything from a table and two chairs, to a bed, a horse drawn carriage/sleigh and a cart.

As Myra, Frances Loiselle conveys the starched quality of Myra, very professional, prim, proper but also able to warm to her neighbours and community. As Angus, Duncan Gibson-Lockhart revealed a man as spare in his talk as Myra was. There was glinting humour in this contained performance. Together Loiselle and Gibson-Lockhart illuminated how and why Myra and Angus was made for each other.

NOTE: I went to see this production because I like the work of Jeannette Lambermont-Morey, love the play and have never been to Port Perry. What a charming town. Carey Nicholson is the Artistic Director of Theatre on the Ridge. She is determined to being interesting work to her community. The attentive audience was up for it. A lovely evening in the theatre.

Theatre on the Ridge presents:

Began: July 17, 2019.

Closed: July 17, 2019.

Running Time:  2 hours, approx.

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1 Anonymous August 1, 2019 at 6:50 pm

It upsets me to read this review and to hear you praise Theatre on the Ridge and artistic director Carey Nicholson who this summer has withheld pay from young emerging artist / employees on Canada Summer Jobs grants “due to low box office income”. Shame.